Study Help

Use your literature exam to improve your English marks: The Crucible

by Betsy Tucker

Betsy Tucker is an experienced English Home Language educator and author.

I am often asked, “How can I improve my English marks?” My answer is that you will get best results from focusing on your set books. You may say that they count only 80 marks; that the essay paper counts 100 and the language paper 70. (You remember that the remaining marks have been dealt with before you start your exams – 50 for oral and 100 for CASS.)

However – when you read your books, you are practising for the comprehension question; when you read with a pen in hand and make notes in the margin, and underline important passages, you are practising for the summary question, and your language skills improve all the time that you write notes. Remember that your tennis skills will improve if you spend time playing tennis and your writing skills improve if you spend time writing.

Let’s use The Crucible as an example:

Background information
Make sure you know all this information so that you can use it for the contextual question.

1. When does this action take place? 1692 (late 1600’s will do)
2. Who are these people? They are Puritans (a very narrow and conservative Christian sect) who came from England.
3. What is their form of government? They are ruled by a theocracy, that is, the church and government are one.
4. What, literally, is a crucible? It is a pot in which metals get heated, to distinguish gold from base metal.
5. What is the (figurative) crucible in this play? It can be seen as the meeting house or church, which becomes the court-room (symbolizing that church and state are one), or the whole town can be seen as the crucible.
6. What, figuratively, gets melted in this crucible? All the people are in the crucible, and as they suffer (as the metal might get heated), their true natures are revealed. Some, like Rebecca, are shown to be true gold; others like the Putnams, are shown to be “base”.

Make sure you know the names of the characters, or you will lose marks. Write them down on the back cover of your book.
·         John Proctor – the hero and husband of Elizabeth. Had an affair with Abigail.
·         Elizabeth – his wife. Good mother but cold and suspicious wife.
·         Abigail Williams – niece of Rev Samuel Parris, previous servant of the Proctors.

What sort of man is John Proctor?
He is a good father (gives his life so that his children may know that they have an honest man as a father). He tries to be a loving husband, despite his adultery, for which he is truly sorry. He is respected in the community, and is brave enough to stand up to the tyrannical priest – not easy in that community. He and Elizabeth are able to express their love for each other, before he dies.

Find more help in this great X-kit Achieve Literature Study Guide: X-kit Achieve Literature Series: The Crucible
Looking for The Crucible in eBook format, visit

Grade 10 , Grade 11 , Grade 12