We’ll start The Crucible on Monday. I will ask for portfolio notes on supplementary materials next week in the hopes that we can “read” the film critically, as we would any of the texts we’ve covered. There are no requirements for which texts to consult, so feel free to read widely among these resources.
The attachment is a selected excerpt from the phenomenal Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project at the University of Virginia. You can browse the court records, maps, notable people, and literary works as you wish. The literary works include Longfellow’s dramatic poem, Giles Corey of the Salem Farms, which might have influenced Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.
In keeping with our discussion today, it will be helpful to consider how Arthur Miller intended his 1952 play to address the particular social pressures of his time, and how these themes speak to our time (if they do). This overview of the play and the movie will add some context. More to the point is Miller’s essay, “Are You Now or Were You Ever?”, published in 2000, which offers his reflections on how Salem echoes in American thought in the 21st century.
These resources will help us more intelligently discuss what Salem ought to mean to us now and how effective this film is in conveying the meaning of that event, as you understand it.
I don’t have explanations for all of the scenes that these songs would help frame in a film adaptation, but they present a very broad array of representations of Rowlandson’s mental and emotional state throughout the narrative.
For the death of Mary’s daughter, Sarah:
For the scene where Mary’s captors comfort her in a canoe:
For the opening battle scene:
For Rowlandson’s psychological breakdown in the Fourth Remove:
For the hopeful scene after the council, when Mary learns she might be ransomed:
For Rowlandson’s homecoming:
- Your theme: Pick a theme that you believe encompasses the readings we’ve discussed so far and identifies an important trend in colonial American literature. Explain how Rowlandson’s text reflects this theme and how her treatment of it compares/contrasts with other authors.
- Race relations: How do the other texts we’ve read that pertain to race relations help you make sense of Rowlandson’s portraits of Native Americans? Remember that the publication date for this text is 1682, nearly two hundred years after Columbus’s first contact. What has changed about race relations in this span of time? What has stayed the same?
- Religion: How do you make sense of Rowlandson’s phrase “strange providence”? How does her discussion of religion compare and contrast with other texts that we’ve read? In what ways might she be similar to other Calvinists? In what ways might she be different? What might these comparisons and contrasts suggest about religion in early America?
- Gender: Like Anne Bradstreet’s poetry collection, the original version of Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative contained a preface by a Puritan minister endorsing her writing as beneficial reading for other Puritans. See the original preface here. Why do you think the Norton anthology might omit these prefatory comments and begin directly with Rowlandson’s captivity account? How does Rowlandson compare to the other women we’ve seen in colonial American literature (female figures in Iroquois and Pima tradition, Eve, Hutchinson, and Bradstreet)?
The following template might also help you develop an intertextual reading:
A crucial theme in Rowlandson’s memoir is ______. More specifically, Rowlandson shows that ______. She writes, “______.” [add more examples for depth] In these examples, Rowlandson is suggesting that ______. This emphasizes Rowlandson’s central theme of ______.
This theme of ______ in “A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson” is similar to Author X’s work, ______. Author X deals with this theme similarly in these ways ______. For instance, Author X writes, “______.” Like Rowlandson, Author X concludes that ______. However, Author X differs from Rowlandson in these ways ______. Where Rowlandson suggests ______, Author X suggests ______. If Author X were reading “A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson,” he/she might raise these questions ______. The differences between Author X and Rowlandson are especially evident in these textual examples ______. [balance quotations and paraphrases to show breadth, but also to avoid excessively long quotations] These parallels and contrasts between Rowlandson’s memoir and Author X’s work lead me to the following conclusions ______.
Reading against the grain:
We had a good start today challenging some of Rowlandson’s views by looking at exceptions in her own text. For instance, acts of kindness by Native Americans during her captivity undermines her larger claims about their “diabolical” nature. One of the accusations English settlers made against neighboring tribes was that their methods of warfare were devious, since they attacked at night and by stealth, rather than fighting in the open, as Europeans were accustomed to. (see excerpt from The Last of the Mohicans below). However, Bradford explains in his account of the Pequot War that English soldiers sought advice from Narragansett allies for attacking a Pequot village. Similarly, the ambush style of warfare was adopted by American revolutionaries while fighting against the British, as dramatized by The Patriot. Cases like these suggest a cultural double standard. How else might you use Rowlandson’s text to read against its own assertions?