The last time I thought about “The Crucible,” I was turning in a test for my 11th grade English class.
Now, Arthur Miller’s 1953 play about the Salem witch trials is all over my TikTok feed. The tragedy, which was also made into a 1996 movie starring Winona Ryder and Daniel Day-Lewis, has its own fandom.
Much of the newfound popularity “The Crucible” has gained online can be attributed to TikTok user Joe Hegyes, who imagined the play’s supposed villain, witch-accuser Abigail Williams, as an influencer, or the “original Lana Del Rey.”
“I’m not trying to start anything, like, you know me I don’t like drama, but … I just saw Goody Proctor with the devil,” he said in his most viral video of the series.
Hegyes’ posts spawned what is now known as “CrucibleTok,” in which other users have been parodying the book’s themes in classic 1600s garb.
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It’s also a surprisingly relatable reference. Tons of students have had to read “The Crucible” at one point or another, and though they might not reference it like a TV show or movie, details from the book are engrained in our brains.
Alex Beene, a high school and college English teacher from Tennessee, told In The Know that “The Crucible” captures a number of “chaotic themes of the moment,” like fanaticism, misogyny and unsubstantiated claims.
“While we tend to think of ‘The Crucible’ in a more dramatic setting, the story can lend itself to comedic takes … that act as a reflection of the absurdity in many of today’s headlines and the bombastic, unverified claims made by both those in power and those observing the powerful,” he said.
Beene explained that the story follows a society “in which logic and reason have collapsed due to division.”
“We’re living in a time of unprecedented division both politically and socially on so many issues, and that’s causing so many to side with personal opinions over facts,” he said. “For any student, it’s easy to see our current world reflected in Arthur Miller’s words.”
Arthur Miller himself wrote in the New Yorker in 1996 that “The Crucible” was a response to the paranoia and hysteria around communism.
“As the dramatic form became visible, one problem remained unyielding: so many practices of the Salem trials were similar to those employed by the congressional committees that I could easily be accused of skewing history for a mere partisan purpose,” he wrote.
Dust off those high school English books, folks — there might just be a lesson or two for modern times. Or inspiration for the next viral TikTok.
If you enjoyed this story, you might also like reading about another recent TikTok trend known as reality shifting.
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