English - Setting
Miller prefaces his opening Act with a detailed description of the
setting. We are told it is a small room in Reverend Parris' house. The
sparseness of the small room, with its raw colours and furnishings,
combined with its dim light, serves to immediately establish the
Puritanical society in which these characters live. As Miller attributes
much of the action to follow on this repressive society, it is paramount
that he clearly establish its oppressiveness very early on.
The lack of furnishings, and the simplicity of the furnishings that are
present, indicate that the people of Salem allow themselves little luxury
or comfort. Material goods are not valued in this society and therefore
what furniture there is has a functional use only. The roof rafters are
exposed and the openness of the room would initially indicate that these
are honest people with nothing to hide. However, this is thrown into
question when the lighting of the room is taken into account. There are two
sources of light, a small window with leaded panes, which would not allow
much light into the room, and a single candle. The effect of this dim light
would be to cast shadows around the room, leaving some parts hidden from
view. Thus the lighting in the room establishes the dichotomy between good
and evil. It hints that although these people claim to be 'open' there is
much evil lurking behind the shadows.
The action of the entirety of Act One takes place in this room, with
twelve characters entering and exiting at various stages. A sense of
claustrophobia is created with the overcrowding of the room, and the
conflict between the characters seems understandable given these
conditions. The restrictiveness of the setting facilitates the tense
atmosphere created in Act One. The audience is left with the unshakeable
feeling that that something tragic is about to happen, that these people
cannot possibly go on as they are.
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