Since the IRT is starting off their season with The Crucible, I figured it was a good time for a re-read. Plus I hadn't read this since high school and I'm usually interested in how my opinions may have changed with time. I liked it then, and I still like it.
I'm fascinated at the way things completely spiral out of control as more people start listening to the girls and taking everything they're saying as fact. It's almost as if the lies begin to take on a life of their own and everyone is afraid to stop and tell the truth because of all the damage that's already occurred. That's pretty clear in the final scenes where the judge refuses to grant any additional time or leniency because others have already been hanged. No one can risk looking weak or uncertain so they all press on, full force to save face almost as much as to uphold justice.
It's well known that the play is a mirror of everything that was going on in the US around suspicion of communist activity. The McCarthy proceedings were very similar to the Salem witch trials with people turning on each other and making false confessions just to save themselves. It's sad, but I think it's something we're all capable of doing. Self-preservation can be a pretty powerful motivator.
That's not to say that we're all bad. Clearly at the end of the play John Proctor has found his strength of character and he and the others go to their deaths bravely knowing that the judgment that has been passed on them by the court is not the real judgment that will impact their eternal souls. They know the truth is on their side and have comfort in that.
I love the evolution of John Proctor throughout. We see all of his flaws early on, and yet he's still likable, it's still easy to see him as a good man; or at the very least as a man who is trying to be better than he was. He never puts the blame for his actions on anyone other than himself and is willing to accept the full consequences of what he's done.