With specific focus on ‘The Crucible’ by Arthur Miller and ‘An Occurrence at Owl Creek’ by Ambrose Bierce, compare and contrast the writers’ exploration of key themes (such as those of Power, Authority and Control)

With specific focus on ‘The Crucible’ by Arthur Miller and ‘An Occurrence at Owl Creek’ by Ambrose Bierce, compare and contrast the writers’ exploration of key themes (such as those of Power, Authority and Control) and the methods and techniques used to convey their ideas.

Intro – Summarise the two pieces, end with where it’s going and set up the question or outline the main themes you’re going to look at. Best to do this after the rest of the essay. (in this piece, we will focus on x, y, z – start with x on the next line)

Crucial Info to make the intro a summary.

Genre, Dates (writing and setting), Authors and perhaps even push to main purposes.

Use secondary references here

Arthur Miller’s play is a tragedy based on the real historical events of the Salem Witch Trials of Massachusetts during the year 1692 (REFERENCE).Within the play, Miller bases his characters on real-life individuals and uses real-life personalities and names for the purpose of telling his story in a fashion which helps to develop a more authentic narrative.He uses the plays setting as an allegory for the series of trials organized by Senator Joe McCarthy and the House Unamerican ActivitesCommittee that took place between the 1938 and 1954 in which writers, artists, musicians, filmmakers and more were questioned about their level of participation in communist organizations and by extension, their loyalty to the U.S. (REFERENCE). Ambrose Bierce similarly chooses an important period in US history as a setting for his short story, an Occurrence at Owl Creek, namely the U.S. Civil War of1861(REFERENCE). Contrary to Miller, Bierce’s story does not use real people to aid his narrative but does set the story earlier than the time of writing so that the reader has the benefit of the knowing what occurred during the war and how it ended. Although the two pieces belong to different genres and are written in different styles and settings they both raise important questions about the nature of justice, power and authority.

Main Body –Comparisons and Contrasts between the play and the short story

A topic sentence that explains the main idea of the paragraph: this must be linked to power in Miller first, Bierce second. Your reader must be able to read your topic sentence and immediately see the relevance of it to your question. :Miller’s play is largely intended to be an analogy for McCarthyism by comparingJoseph McCarthy and the HUAC, which Miller himself was a victim of, to Abigail and the children and the people accused of being Communists to the people who were executed as witches, in both instances,logic and reason were replaced with hysteria and the moral high ground was ceded to the accusers (REFERENCE). Within the initial essay section of the play, Miller writes that “the balance has yet to be struck between order and freedom”making clear that the issues written about within the play remain an issue during his day, though the face of the problem has changed the core of it has not. Miller makes repeated comparisons between the events of the Salem Witch Trials and McCarthyism, on page (PAGE) Danforth says that “If you are not with the court, you are against it” this references several things, firstly it is in alignment with Joseph McCarthy and the HUAC’s views, it is also religious language in that it is a modernization of the line “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” from the Book of Joshua (REFERENCE). The Crucible takes place in Salem, at the time Salem was a Theocracy, meaning a system of government led by religion, in such a system the courts represent religion and as a result Danforth in the play represents heaven,this enables the children to take control as Danforth believes that“Heaven is speaking through the children”.To Danforth, to be against the court is to be against God and to, as a result, support the natural opposition to God, the devil. This directly compares to the McCarthyism, the Theocracy of the Crucible is replaced with a Democracy which is viewed by Joseph McCarthy to be as black and white good as a Theocracy is to Danforth. Similarly then, any who opposed McCarthy were to him directly opposing Democracy and as a result, supported the natural enemy of Democracy, Communism. To say that “you are not with this court, you are against it” is itself an ignorant statement and any individual that says this is making the decision to ignore evidence, another commonality between the Witch Trials and McCarthyism. Miller’s intent here is to demonstrate how foolish and ignorant Danforth and by extension any who resemble him are, indeed, the play itself mocks the beliefs of the HUAC by comparing them to individuals who were excessively superstitious even for there time “QUOTE”. WHAT DO I COMPARE McCarthyism TO IN THE SHORT STORY?

Within the play, keys are repeatedly used to symbolise power “the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom”here Miller makes several points, firstly, he describes the children as “little” and “crazy” in an attempt to reinforce how childish and unreasonable they are, he then uses the keys as a metaphor for the power they hold within Salem and ends the line with “Kingdom” which is within this context religious language making reference to the fact that religion is the tool which the children are using to gain and abuse this power, the keys are metaphors for the ability that Abigail and the children possess in that they have the power to imprison and kill any they accuse “I done my duty pointing out the Devil’s people” something which they can do largely without reproach, even to the extent that others will defend them for it “QUOTE”.

Support sentences that show how the idea in your topic sentence is reflected in the novel – make it clear where in the book this happens too. :

Textual support for the idea above (stage 2). You can embed textual support within your sentence or use a colon (:) to ‘signpost’ your reader to your quotation. Remember, all words taken from the text must be in quotation marks. :

Further analysis of the textual support you’ve just given – this can be about language, authorial voice, Miller’s/Bierce’s intentions, characterisation etc. Make specific points against your topic sentence (power, authority, control) You can also bring secondary references to back up your ideas at this stage. Remember that you can argue against points from secondary sources also. Make sure, when commenting on the sections of the novel you’ve quoted, that you do as much close linguistic analysis (using the correct technical terms) as you can. :

style of the main body (do’s and don’ts)

Don’t retell the story (plot fill) avoid the temptation to mention what happens next. If you mention plot, it has to be related to themes or ideas (When this happens, it gives us the idea that or the feeling that) assume the reader knows the book already. Point it out only if it’s relevant. Avoid starting from the beginning and just moving on like that, get a range of parts of the play (the most useful, not the most recent) Do point out how events echo and foreshadow others. ALWAYS TIE THINGS TO THEME YA BISCUIT via topic sentences (USE ORWELL TO REMIND YOURSELF OF THAT) Don’t just use theme, link things to authorial intentions (authors thoughts and intentions) ANALYSE THE LANGUAGE and linguistic effects. USE TECHNICAL TERMS. Use critical secondary sources well. Compare and contrast the two pieces THROUGHOUT the essay, could do two texts in the same paragraph IF YOU WISH, not essential then. But, it’s okay to separate them “This idea can also be seen in Biere’ces short story when…” To best find theme, use annotated extracts. There are 4 or 5 so read them well for help.

Conclusion –Start with a clear idea that links to them, then use examples from the play to back it up and then analyse the language (might not be related to conclusion)

DO NOT REPEEAT EVERYTHING YOU JUST SAID, THIS IS NOT FOR READERS WITH A HEAD INJURY. Instead, evaluate the effectiveness of the piece. Come to a decision about which writer got his ideas across better. Which piece communicates the ideas most effectively. In your opinion and why. You could give a personal view here and could use the first person style if you wished. Avoid it though if possible.Millers ideas are very clear, dramatic – see gilescoreys death. Didactic (Teaching + Moralising)

Extra notes – Children rattling keys of the kingdom (Kingdom of heaven implied)

Born as pure as gods fingers

Keys = opening doors, metaphor for power over opportunity you can go further and access more. You also have the power to restrict access.

Power needs to be with the right people, responsibility for power and death shouldn’t be with children is proctors point.

Jennings talks about the universalities of the methods of terror, this means so on so forth, compare this to the fact that salem an owl creek both ended in a hanging. Both writers ultimately say that the individual can’t fight the system and hope to win.

A person is either with this court, or against it (biblical quote that danforth uses.

Language is used against people, tyranny of language. Ambrose talks about gray a lot as a reference to the fact that morality isn’t black and white.

Miller uses double negatives (I never use no poppets) a lot, but this wasn’t realistic, they used them but not nearly as much as was in the play. The effect of it is to make peoples phrases more empahtic and to increase intensity they are also being portrayed as uneducated people but are still left in no dobt as to what they really mean.

Hard burnished wood (in reference to 1692 english) – miller is getting at the idea that this society likes to get ideas and protect them, but everytime they polish them they remove some of what it was. The idea here in this society is that the ideas that htye have and hold that they took from the bible they’ve used them so much, polished and refined them that they’ve changed the meanings (look for more proof) you could also say that wethe language used to forge belief systems that we live by in the same way that we use wood to build buildings. It’s hard because they use it to hurt each other, language is a weapon in salem.


About the Author :

Leave a Comment