Arthur Miller, one of the greatest and most well knownplaywrights of the twentieth century bases many of his characters off of real,living people. This can easily be seen in his world renowned play, TheCrucible, which tells the story of the colonial Salem Witch Trials Essay. The storyhas many characters, all of whom vary from one another in one way oranother. These variances are very much like those of real colonial people,which is what Miller was trying to do in creating a realistic play. Some of themost well known colonial Americans are of course the early Americanwriters, such as William Byrd, Jonathan Edwards, and Benjamin Franklin, allof whom have personalities like those of characters in The Crucible.
Thecharacters of The Crucible have powerful characteristics that vary from thevery pious, to the downright evil and avaricious, which are very much likethose of the people of the day. To lovers of great literature, the name Thomas Putnam stirs up imagesof a grasping land baron who has, no morals, no principles, and no love forthe human race, but rather, only a love for money and power, and to disgracethe name of others. Some believe that the man known as Thomas Putnam ismerely an exaggerated personification of the sixteenth century writer, WilliamByrd. Byrd, who also had many land holdings in his native land of theAmerican South, is very well known for his classic book of observations, TheHistory of the Dividing Line, which can be found in almost any book loverscollection.
William Byrd was a money loving man, and wielded a great dealof power in his day, but all the money he had could not buy him a place inheaven. Byrd was a bit of an epicure, and thus lived for the present, neverthinking about what there is after death, or as he says, “I neglected myprayers, but had milk for breakfast” (Byrd 49). This quote clearly shows thatByrd cared little for prayer, yet when it came to what to eat, he was all ears. However, William Byrd did admit when he had neglected his prayers, unlikethe volatile Thomas Putnam, who would live the lie of going to church, andthen tear down everything which The Bible stands for by damning his fellowman to the gallows with accusations of witchery, and also with his powerfulsupport of the trials. Putnam was also a man who enjoyed little in life, asidefrom power, wealth, and the suffrage of his myriad of enemies.
This deep sethatred is displayed when Miller tells of Thomas having a minister, GeorgeBurroughs, jailed for debts which he did not owe, only because Burroughsbecame minister, and Putnam’s brother-in-law did not. Thus, one can see thatArthur Miller truly did base his character, Thomas Putnam, from a popularlyheld personality of the day, which many still hold to these modern times. Aside from the greed which many held in America’s early day, fiercepiety also abounded. Miller utilizes the character of Reverend Hale to displaythis fervent belief in God, which some see as almost fanatical.
Hale, as withall of Arthur Miller’s characters, was based on the devout attitude that manyof the old fashioned Puritan ministers held. One of the most famous Puritanministers was Jonathan Edwards, whose famous sermon “Sinners in theHands of an Angry God” scared many Americans into submissiveness to thechurch. In The Crucible, John Hale is a well respected man who issummoned to Salem for the witch hunt because he had just dealt with a witchin his own parish. Like Senator Joseph McCarthy being called to seek outcommunists, Reverend Hale views his trip to Salem as a beloved errand in afield which he believes he holds expert knowledge in.
Like the fictionalcharacter Reverend John Hale, the real life minister Jonathan Edwards heldhimself on an esteemed pedestal with the likes of Socrates and Plato. Edwards has been known throughout history for his extreme measures, andlike Hale, he truly believed that he was doing good. Jonathan Edwards kepthis reverent beliefs until the day that he died, even going so far as to allow hisparish .