The Crucible Theme Essay, Research Paper
Pandemonium runs rampant, and suppressed children cry out witch. Scenes such as these from Arthur Miller s play The Crucible, provides a fictional depiction of the infamous 1692 Salem, Massachusetts, witch trials. During the play, the entire community suffers from the mass hysteria that starts with a few young girls dancing in the woods. When the girls are inflicted with abnormal illnesses and problems, the community assumes that witchcraft is involved. After many accusations, trials, and executions, the community s hysteria finally ends. Certain characters fight their own internal battles against the backdrop of an entire community in pandemonium.
Miller uses three characters who clearly manifest this internal battle. First, Mary Warren s whole personality turns upside down when she is torn between telling the truth and surviving the trials. John Proctor is the next who is forced to contemplate a choice between the importance of his family and his own name. The third, Reverend Hale, battles with himself about whether or not to carry out his job requirements or to do what he knows is right. All three characters face difficult choices that are eating away at each one s conscience. Should they do what they believe is right, or what will help them survive the witch trials? Each character and situation is unique, beginning with Mary Warren.
Inner turmoil plagues a girl named Mary Warren, house servant to the Proctors, throughout the play. When Mary first appears in the beginning of the hysteria, the reader perceives her to be a very shy girl who will never speak her mind. She is afraid to stand up to Abigail and tell the truth about what really happens in the woods the night Reverend Parris catches them dancing. What happens in the woods is more than just dancing, though. Abigail makes life threats against all the girls involved in the dancing, scaring Mary Warren. This submissive characteristic also shows itself when John Proctor comes to Reverend Parris s house to tell Mary to go home and have no part in all this nonsense. As before, she is afraid to speak her mind to John Proctor and responds to his orders with I m just going home (21), implying to the reader that she is doing what he wishes because she is afraid to speak her mind. As the play continues and as Abigail influences her, Mary begins to break this self-restricting mold and does what she wants in regard to the Proctors and herself. Mary Warren, along with many other girls, becomes enthralled in the hype of getting all the attention from the community and exercising power through initiating and obstinately continuing these witch trials. When John Proctor finally shows that when people like Rebecca Nurse and Elizabeth Proctor, who are the saintliest of people, stand accused of practicing witchcraft that something must be wrong, it affects Mary s role. When John questions Mary after her day as an official of the court, she tells him she [Goody Osborne] tried to kill me many times (57). After saying this, Mary then realizes that her whole outlook on life bases on injustice and faces a difficult decision. This proves true when she begins sobbing and cries out in guilt, Goody Osburn- will hang! (56). Reluctantly, she must decide how she can extricate herself from Abigail and all her friends, not to mention her new feelings of confidence. Mary decides to speak out against Abigail and the others for their false accusations after John Proctor threatens her. Yet, as Mary does this heroic act of overcoming her old reality, Abigail pretends that Mary is also a witch, ironically using the same spasms of fits that Mary uses during the trials to convict so many others (108).
Mary now faces yet another grueling internal conflict. Should she do what she knows is right and probably die for it or return to her old ways? Mary finally succumbs to Abigail s hypnosis and accuses John Proctor of forcing her to lie. Clearly, the battle that Mary Warren faces from the very beginning is enormous. She must deal with the decision of life and death. She has the choice to tell the truth and die, or to lie and live. This decision is similar to the torturous internal conflict that John Proctor suffers throughout the play.
John Proctor, like Mary Warren, also faces inner turmoil. A farmer and village commoner in Salem, John commits adultery with Abigail and has absolutely no intentions of joining the witch trial unless his pregnant wife should also become involved. This unwillingness in John to join the court proceedings shows when his wife tries to convince him to go to the court and let them know Abigail is a fraud. He loftily tells her, I ll think on it (53). After his wife becomes involved, John cannot accept the fact that she may die for his sin of adultery so that Abigail may be pacified. John is an upright and dignified man and because of these characteristics, he believes at first he cannot hang and die a martyr for his God when he has this sin of adultery looming over him every waking moment. John later says to Elizabeth when they discuss what he is going to do about the accusations made against him that, My honesty is broke, Elizabeth; I am no good man. Nothing s spoiled by giving them this lie that were not rotten long before (136). John finally reaches the critical decision to confess to witch craft and live, rather than die for something he has not done.
Even though, John confesses, he does not allow Danforth to officially document it. When Danforth asks him why, John cries, Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name! (143). John feels strongly about having a good name and not dying with a soiled name. John weighs both sides of his internal conflict and realizes that he must not make another mistake. He, therefore, sentences himself to death, not for his own sake, but rather for the sake of others. As John dies, Elizabeth weeps saying, He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him! (145). When Elizabeth says this, it proves that John is a dignified and upright man who tries to find a way to escape his sin of adultery which causes him internal conflict. The evidence shows that throughout the play John still feels guilty about Abigail and feels responsible for his wife s conviction of being a witch. By allowing himself to hang without confession, he allows himself to gain peace by leaving his family with a good name. Almost everyone in the community feels some type of responsibility that connects to the conviction of some of the residents of Salem.
This internal conflict is evident in Reverend Hale whose investigation causes these problems to jump from just dancing in the woods to witchcraft. At first, Reverend Hale is sure about his belief that there are witches in Salem and feels that he needs to carry out the desires of God himself. Yet, as the play moves on and Hale sees all these honest and up-standing people being sentenced and executed, he also feels an inner conflict. He contemplates whether to do what he is sent to do, listen to Danforth, or listen to his own conscience and denounce these proceedings as unjust and wrong. Hale decides
to aid all the people wrongly accused by encouraging them to confess and save themselves from these false proceedings. Hale, attempting to repent his own sins by trying to make people confess states, I come to do the devil s work. I come to counsel Christians they should belie themselves can you not see the blood on my head!! (131). This shows that he is feeling the effects of his inner conflict because he is trying to lessen the feelings of guilt he is experiencing.
Hale overcomes his turmoil by following the truth he knows in his heart to be right. Yet, he is counseling people to prevail upon your husband to confess (132) and says, God damns a liar less than he that throws his life away for pride (132). He also convinces people to lie, which is against his religion and considered a moral sin. Nevertheless, he decides that earthly life is a greater gift than eternal life. Reverend Hale faces with many difficult decisions. The decisions of Reverend Hale are similar to many people s decisions.
Everybody throughout his life may face inner conflicts. Although the inner conflicts of today are nothing like what Mary Warren, John Proctor, and Reverend Hale face during this play, they are forced to make a decision based on what they think is right and true. Should they let innocent people die to save themselves, or should they allow their own persecution by denouncing the proceedings and possibly have a chance of saving some of the innocent, is the question they must ask themselves. These three characters probably face the most difficult decision they have ever made in their lives. They must weigh their choices carefully and decide where they stand. Deciding where they stand is not as easy of a task, as it may seem. Mary Warren who feels burdened with
this truth and knowledge but is scared of what might happen if she speaks. Ultimately, she comes to the decision to choose life with turmoil over death. This is also seen in John Proctor who is forced to choose between his good name that accompanies death or a life with sorrow and turmoil. He decides that he would rather die a young man with a good name than an old man with a soiled name. Similarly, Reverend Hale must make a decision between inner life turmoil with the relief of helping some innocent or the choice of death knowing that he has aided this hysteria in forming. He, like John Proctor, also chooses the relief from his inner conflict, although his is the easier self-relief of the two, since he must only counsel Christians while John will hang. Whether right or wrong in his decision, each character carefully weighs his choice and goes with what he thinks is the right decision within his life and must live and die by that decision, resolving whether good or bad, the conflict.