We’re wrapping up reading The Crucible, so I’ve assigned an essay that asks students to consider gender archetypes in the play. It’s a meaty prompt with lots of space for them to reach their own conclusions, demonstrate their learning in ways that play to their individual strengths, and write essays that (hopefully) won’t bore me to tears. As we discussed various approaches to the essay question and points of entry into their writing, we realized that, beyond dialogue and stage directions, Miller provides narrative back stories for six male characters – Reverend Parris of Salem, Thomas Putnam, John Proctor, Francis Nurse (under the aegis of discussing Rebecca Nurse, however, Francis gets more text), Reverend John Hale of Beverly, and Giles Corey. Female characters do not receive similar treatment. In a couple of my (six) classes, we tried to figure out whether this was evidence of Miller’s own gender bias, a way that he chose to double-down on the way women are pawns in patriarchal Western communities, or possibly a bit of both. We didn’t reach a conclusion, but this type of moment – really digging at a piece of literature with a class and having no real answer just more questions – is for me one of the most satisfying things when teaching content.