The Crucible - Understanding the Text
Do you understand the text in The Crucible?

The Crucible - Understanding the Text

This GCSE English Literature quiz tests your understanding of the text in Arthur Miller's The Crucible. Being sure you understand the text is the first step you take before you can begin to analyse and write about it. Surprisingly, this is more difficult than it sounds. After all, if authors only wished to convey a simple message, would it really take hundreds of pages and thousands of words to do so? When you read a text written long ago, or one from another country, or perhaps written in a strong dialect, understanding requires more effort. The Crucible requires good historical understanding as well as some practice in making sense of the characters’ dialect, in addition to the usual comprehension skills.

Authors convey meaning through a variety of methods.

They often prefer not to state what they mean directly. Instead, they communicate with their readers through the various aspects of fiction, such as character, setting, plot, theme and dialogue. Consider each of these elements as you work to understand the text you are reading. Re-reading is a good idea and helps you understand more than you might if you only read a book once. If you do find that you need to read a text again, don’t worry! This is something that most people experience. It also proves that you have been paying attention!

What are the connections between context, setting and the events which the text relates? A timeline of events can be useful and making one will help develop your understanding of the text. Although in novels, events are not always related chronologically, a play will often present them in the order in which they occur. This makes the timeline easier to create, but you might want to consider where events occurring off stage fit in.

What do actions reveal about the characters’ motivations? Have you examined the text for clues to explain their behaviour? Can their words be taken at face value, or will you need to examine the subtext of those words more closely? Do characters’ actions match their words? Think about your reasoning behind the answers to these questions and justify your views by referring in detail to the text.

Remember to analyse beginnings and endings. Why does the text begin as it does? What do you learn straight away about the setting and the characters? How are future events foreshadowed? It is a good idea to analyse the beginnings and ends of individual acts and scenes in a play, too. Careful and detailed analysis of this sort will help you to dramatically improve your knowledge and understanding of the text.

Read the questions below on The Crucible and test your knowledge and understanding of the text.

Why does Reverend Parris ask Susanna Walcott not to speak of any "unnatural causes" of Betty's illness?
He does not believe in "unnatural causes"
He is afraid of the witches in Salem
He believes that the people are superstitious and he does not wish to frighten them
He is afraid that he and his family will lose respect in the town
The people of the town are already murmuring about witchcraft and Parris feels that his ministry to the people will be undermined if anyone knows about the girls dancing and running naked in the forest
Why did Abigail lose her position as a servant in the Proctor household?
She preferred to wander around Salem and neglected her duties
Elizabeth Proctor discovered that she was having sex with John
Elizabeth decided that she did not need a servant
Abigail left the Proctor home because she was offered another job elsewhere
Miller portrays the relationship as an affair and Abigail as a temptress. As a careful reader, you might notice that John is in his thirties and that Abigail was his teenage servant. You might also consider Miller's comment in his note on historical accuracy that he increased the age of the historical Abigail
Why does John Proctor refuse to sign his confession?
Signing the confession means that he consents to all of the lies
Signing the confession will make him a coward unfit to set a good example to his children
Signing the confession condemns as liars and witches the others who hang
All of the above
John Proctor recognises as weakness his own desire to do whatever is necessary to live. He is shamed by the courage with which others have gone to their deaths
What does the text present as motivations for the various accusations of witchcraft?
Jealousy and lust
Grief and the desire to blame
Greed for land and property
All of the above
Abigail is suspected of wishing to replace Elizabeth as John's wife; Mrs. Putnam cannot understand why all but one of her babies died and therefore wishes to have someone to blame; and Giles Corey accuses Mr. Putnam of using the accusations as a way of gaining more land
Why are the girls afraid to admit to their activities in the forest?
They will be punished and probably accused of witchcraft
They will cause Tituba to be sold away from Salem
They will be sent away from home
The people of Salem will laugh at them
Being honest about their activities will result in a whipping at best, or, at worst, being hanged as witches
Why does Reverend Parris fear that Salem will become restless and might even riot?
Salem is a notoriously lawless place
Respectable citizens have begun to hang for witchcraft
The people have become more religious
The people have become less religious
His fear is an acknowledgement that the people of Salem do not care so much for the lives of the poor, the troubled, the outsider
Why is Reverend Parris afraid during the final act of the play?
He is afraid of God's judgement
He is afraid that the townspeople have turned against him
He is afraid that the spirits of the dead will haunt him
All of the above
Reverend Parris is a weak, self-absorbed man who is only concerned for his own respectability. He is afraid of retribution for his part in the deaths
When does the audience first realise that Betty is pretending?
When Tituba comes into her room to see how she is
When Mercy suggests that Abigail threaten to beat her
When Abigail tells Betty that she has admitted all of their behaviour to Reverend Parris
When John Proctor comes to find Mary Warren
Betty whimpers while being shaken and threatened by her cousin Abigail, leaping out of bed and crying for her mother when she believes Abigail to have confessed their deeds
What is the obstacle facing Mary when she wishes to set the record straight?
If she admits that the girls have been pretending, she also admits to lying in court
Mary cannot keep track of all of the lies she and the other girls have told
Mary is not considered to be a trustworthy witness
Mary cannot clearly remember any of the events
Lies lead to more lies; honesty would also require the judges to acknowledge that they have caused the death of innocent people
Why is the poppet given by Mary to Elizabeth considered evidence of witchcraft?
The poppet has a needle stuck in its belly
Cheever understands that all witches own poppets
Cheever expects Elizabeth to use the poppet to poison Abigail
The poppet has been passed from one accused woman to another
Cheever finds a needle in the poppet and believes that Elizabeth has used the doll to cause Abigail excruciating pain. Those investigating witchcraft cannot see their own credulity
Author:  Sheri Smith

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