The Crucible: A Backwards Design

The Crucible

In today's world we make decisions that require circumspection and knowledge of motives; otherwise, we could find ourselves in a whole heap of trouble before we even know what hits us.  What makes Miller's play such a masterpiece is that each and every character ends up mired in their own personal crucible, but even more compelling is their unwittingness is entirely plausible.  We see ourselves making similar choices, suffering similar consequences, and negotiating the very difficult terrain of wrecked relationships as a result.

Whitman reminds us of "the poor results of all."  And we cannot help but see those results all around us.  We grow up in a Disney vision of the way things should be, and find ourselves ill-equipped to deal rationally with our precarious dispositions after dealing with actual life.

Miller's play not only shows us how easily we make decisions that result in pain, but he reveals to us the power we all have to be a John Proctor; we simply decide to be better, to do the right thing.  No matter how badly we mess things up, it is never too late to do the right thing.

With that, I offer the following unit plan and final assessment:

Unit Plan: The Crucible

  • Enduring Understanding:

It is not a man’s duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even the most enormous wrong; he may still properly have other concerns to engage him; but it is his duty, at least, to wash his hands of it, and, if he gives it no thought longer, not to give it practically his support.--Thoreau


Evil triumphs when men of good will do nothing.


Essential Questions:

  1. Is it more important to be right or to be happy?
  2. What are the dangers of a theocratic society where moral laws and state laws are the same?Where is the balance between private interest and the public good?
  3. How/when does hysteria supplant logic? What are the results?
  4. What does it profit a man to gain the world’s acceptance and lose his soul in the process?


Final Assessment:

You are a mid-level government official with two children and a husband/wife.  The government has amended the Constitution to eviscerate the heart of the first amendment.  Anyone caught speaking out against the government will be thrown in jail.  You have just learned that the reason for the current conflict overseas is a fabrication.  You are hooked on the horns of a dilemma.

Option A:    You speak out against the government exposing the contradictory statements, are publicly exposed as a traitor, privately tortured until you submit to recanting your statement which will save your life but lose your soul/spirit/honor/integrity.

Option B:    You speak out against the government exposing the contradictory statements, are publicly exposed as a traitor, privately tortured but don’t recant your statement which will save your soul/spirit/honor/integrity but forfeit your life.

Just for fun and to make matters worse, your younger brother is about to be drafted into the army to fight in the conflict.  Your wife supports the conflict and the president.  Your only allies in this mad crusade of yours are considered by all reasonable persons to be heretics who get no respect from anyone in power.

You are to:

Deliver your speech explaining your position in front of Congress and the world via television feed.  You must:

  1. Articulate the implications of both choices,
  2. Explain why the choice you have made is better than the alternative,
  3. Use ethical, logical, and emotional appeals to defend your position,
  4. Write up your position in a 3-5 page paper to be handed in concurrent with your speech.


  1. What war? Where? Who’s involved
  2. Document(s) that has come across your desk
  3. State the dilemma
  4. Who is with you and who is against you
  5. The 2 kids who aren’t old enough to understand what is going on

Body #1

  • State option “A” and its pros and cons

Logical reasons

  • If this happens…then this will follow.

Emotional reasons

  • Make your audience feel something.

Ethical reasons

  • Explain what kind of person would choose this option and if they are a respectable person because of it.

Body #2

  • State option “B” and its pros and cons
  • Logical reasons
  • Emotional reasons
  • Ethical reasons

Body #3

  • Explain your decision and why you have made it
  • Logical reasons
  • Emotional reasons
  • Ethical reasons

These should all be more fully explained and not as obvious as the ones you give in body paragraph number one

Body #4

  • Provide a counter-argument for those who chose the option you have not!
  • Anticipate their side of the argument and show them why they are wrong.


  • Providing a summary of your speech
  • Providing a logical prediction or hypothetical world based on the decision you have made AND the one you haven’t!

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