The Symbolism of Rabbit Stew in "The Crucible"

Even a simple meal conceals layers of meaning in The Crucible.

All is not as it seems in "The Crucible," in which young girls are accusing the town's wives and some of its leaders of witchcraft. In one subplot, Elizabeth and John Proctor are still struggling to mend their marriage after John has had an affair with one of the town's primary accusers, Abigail Williams.

A dinner of rabbit stew that John and Elizabeth share together early in the play symbolizes some of the struggles they face in their marriage, which will inform the course of events in the play.

What is the Symbolic Meal?

Readers learn more about the dysfunctional Proctor marriage in an intimate scene at their home. Elizabeth serves a rabbit stew, which John seasons without her knowing it. When she asks him how he likes the stew, he says, "It's well-seasoned." Though it is a small lie, it is indicative of the regular lies that John tells his wife -- small lies like failing to tell Elizabeth that he was alone with Abigail when she confessed that the story of witchcraft was a lie.

The rabbit in the stew is also ​a symbol​ of Elizabeth herself. It wandered innocently into her kitchen, just as Elizabeth wanders innocently into the web of deceit created by the witchcraft accusations. Its sacrifice is a warning of the sacrifice that Abigail Williams intends to make out of Elizabeth, though she is not ultimately successful.

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