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Crucible was written to draw attention to hypocrisy in the Puritan religion.

The Puritans were extremely hard working, religious people who lived by heavily
enforced values and limitations. Even with strict rules exacted by a theocracy
meant to protect them from what was deemed evil; the actions of the Puritans,
especially those in power, went against their own beliefs. Adultery, gossiping,
dishonesty, witchcraft and more took place among the residents of Salem.

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  Verbal irony is irony in which a person says
or writes one thing and means another, or uses words to convey a meaning that
is the opposite of the literal meaning. (“verbal irony”) One instance
of verbal irony is Abigail calling the accused and condemned “witches”
“hypocrites” for praying when she is responsible for innocent people being
imprisoned and killed. (Gray “Irony & The Crucible: Dramatic, Verbal
& Situational”) Another example is when Reverend Parris, Proctor, and
Giles are arguing about money.  Reverend
Parris feels like he’s owed more money by the congregation. Parris boasted
about how his religious studies at Harvard qualify him to earn more than the
average preaching farmer; Giles then calls Reverend Parris out on his obsession
with money, which has nothing to do with religious studies at Harvard.  Reverend Parris is an authority figure in the
town, yet Giles’s comment is disrespectful and puts Parris on the spot.

(Barnhouse “Reverend Parris in The Crucible”)

   Dramatic irony is when the reader or
audience is aware of information, but the character isn’t. Under these
circumstances, the character takes the wrong course of action due to
misguidance. (Gray “Irony & The Crucible: Dramatic, Verbal &
Situational”)  An example of dramatic
irony is when Elizabeth has to testify. She didn’t know John had already
confessed to his affair with Abigail and doesn’t know how to answer Judge
Danforth’s questions about why she fired Abigail. Elizabeth, in an attempt to
save John from charges of lechery, says ‘She – dissatisfied me. And my husband.’
Elizabeth’s lie caused the court to see Proctor as an enemy of the court, and
Abigail was deemed trustworthy. The irony in this shows the degree of loyalty
that Elizabeth has for her husband who has betrayed her. (Miller, The Crucible,
1952, act 3 scene 3)

 Situational irony happens when something
that’s completely the opposite of what’s expected happens. When Reverend Hale
asked John to recite the Ten Commandments to prove his Christianity, he lists
nine and then repeats one. Elizabeth has to remind him of  ‘Adultery, John.’ Ironically, John forgets
the commandment that he’s broken himself. This example of irony provides comic
relief and shines a light on John’s character flaws. (Miller, The Crucible,
1952 Act 2, Scene 3) Another instance is once again when Proctor publicly
admits his affair in the hope of defeating Abigail. This causes the reader to
assume that their scandalous secret being uncovered would cause the people of
Salem to lose trust in Abigail. However, it ironically causes John and
Elizabeth trouble instead. John’s honesty prompts Abigail to falsely accuse
Elizabeth of witchcraft. (Miller, The Crucible, 1952, act 3 scene 3)

  The constant verbal, dramatic, and
situational irony serve to emphasize the corruption and dishonesty that occurs
within a town inhabited by people obsessed with morality. The lies unfolded in
such a chaotic way that an entire town was affected by the actions of a small
group. People lost their lives, families, and reputations to a malicious
teenage girl and a rigged court system; which supposedly was a theocracy, meaning
God is the ultimate judge. When instead, the religious authorities covered up
their mistakes to save their reputation. Miller saw the hypocrisy during this period
and used irony to convey it clearly to his audience.


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