, Research Paper
The Crucible: Men of God
Men of God?
The Crucible by Arthur Miller is a play in which the Red Scare from the 1950’s is paralleled to the Salem Witch Trials in 1692. It contains a wonderfully developed plot, which displays society’s flaws by establishing a good versus evil scenario. Miller creates characters to fuel the evil and others that evolve to show the outbreak of good. Two of these characters are Reverend Samuel Parris, and Reverend John Hale. These men are the spiritual leaders for two neighboring towns in New England, whom many in the community looked up to. Although the personalities of these “men of God” seemed very similar throughout the first half of the play, self-centered and inhuman, their differences became more evident as Hale evolved into a compassionate man of God, and Parris remained the conceited character he was at the beginning of the play.
In act one, the corrupt, self-serving Reverend Samuel Parris is first introduced. In this scene, Parris’ daughter Betty is ill and even the doctor cannot determine what is ailing the girl. Strangely enough, instead of worrying about the fate of his daughter, Reverend Parris seems more concerned about the rumors flying accusing Betty of dealing with the devil, leaving her unconscious. Parris denies all witchcraft accusations, and refuses to believe his household was involved in dealing with the devil. Showing that he is solely consumed with thoughts regarding his reputation, Parris says to his neice, Abigail Williams, “They will topple me with this”(Miller 17). This displays Parris is obviously insecure with his place among the people, and concerned with the effects this event many have on him rather than his daughter. Parris wants to stop the rumors, and therefore calls upon Reverend Hale, a supposed “witch-craft expert” to mediate the controversy surrounding the town of Salem. Parris says, “He’s not coming to look for devils” (Miller 28), but most are aware that Hale is coming to find the source of the evil, which will most likely be determined as dealings with the devil.
Another aspect of Parris is also shown in Act 1. Parris is incredibly insecure regarding his standing with the people, and uses his pulpit as a way to satisfy his selfish desires. Parris desired to own property as respected man did in the Puritan community. A way to grant this wish was to obtain the deed to the church, and the house he was given to live in. No pastor in Salem had ever before made a request such as this, and to break the precedent created, Parris used the pulpit as means to attempt to parallel his desires with the word of God. Many in the church interpret this as corruption, and Parris is aware of those that disapprove of his actions when he says, “There is a party in this church. I am not blind; there is a faction and a party” (Miller 32). In the first act, Parris appears to be a selfish self-serving character, far from the God he claims to serve, unfortunately in this act he is not alone.
Further into Act 1, the minister whom Parris has called upon to investigate the situation appears; John Hale. Hale seems to be looking for the same type of attention Parris is, and speaks as though he has been divinely appointed to bring the devil from Betty Parris. Instead of investigating the situation clearly, Hale jumps directly to the cause of witchcraft when told what suspicions had been circling the town. Hale puts on the show everyone wants to see, and says everything they want to hear. What seems peculiar is the fact that instead of examining Betty alone, he turns the bedroom into a stage where his spectacle will take place. Hale says before doing his so-called “tests” on the girl, “If she is truly in the Devil’s grip, we may have to rip and tear to get her free” (Miller 41). Throughout the act, Hale threatens and manipulates people into falling into the thought that the Devil was involved here. By the end of the act, Hale convinces Tituba (the slave from Barbados), and other girls involved to confess with regards dealing with the Devil. The act resolves with the girls naming names of random people that they claimed to have seen dealing with the Devil. In Act 1, there are many similar personality traits seen in both Parris and Hale including selfishness and self-serving motives.
In Act 2, the similarities between Hale and Parris become less obvious, Hale plays a major role, whereas Parris does not appear, although he is discussed. Hale seems to be regretting his actions in Act 1 that created the witch-craft frenzy now felt throughout the town. Hale goes from house to house, not with business of the court, but business of his own. As he says himself, “I am a stranger here, as you know. And in my ignorance I find it hard to draw a clear opinion of them that come accused before the court. And so this afternoon, and now tonight, I go from house to house” (Miller 67). The girls are now accusing many respected people in the town, and Hale has begun to doubt the accuracy of these accusations. Hale comes to meet for himself those whose names have been mentioned, and seems to have realized the consequences of his actions. The motive of his work no longer is for self, but rather for the good of others. This is almost the complete opposite from the Hale displayed in Act 1, he is no longer jumping to conclusions, but rather attempting to distinguish fact from fiction. Hale has become a character able to admit where he may be wrong. Although there seem to be some doubts still pondering in Hale’s mind, he has begun to consider these situations by looking at the big picture and by the end of Act 2 creates a new image for himself, with less similarities to Parris than displayed in Act 1.
In Act 3, both characters appear together in the courtroom scene, where it becomes very obvious how different they truly have become. Three men enter the courtroom with depositions, in response to these men, Hale says to the presiding judge, “Excellency, he claims hard evidence for his wife’s defense. I think that in all justice you must-” (Miller 90). Hale is then cut off; no one is willing to hear the truth. Parris on the other hand says, “Excellency, you surely cannot think to let so vile a lie be spread in open court!” (Miller 93). These men obviously hold differing opinions as to the validity of the proceedings. Hale has weighed the evidence realizing how bogus the accusations are, while Parris is afraid to even consider the possibility that the girls may be. Betty Parris, one of the girls contributing to the spectral evidence is his daughter, and Abigail Williams, the ringleader of the group, is his niece. Because of this, Parris sees his reputation and quite possibly his position as minister at stake and is too prideful to place these selfish concerns aside to save the lives of those in his congregation. Nevertheless, Hale is willing to admit his faults, and doubts the justification of his own actions when he says, “I have this morning signed away the soul of Rebecca Nurse, Your Honor. I’ll not conceal it, my hand shakes yet as with a wound! I pray you, sir, this argument let lawyers present to you” (Miller 104). Although Hale carries heavy weight in the court, his arguments are brushed aside, and finally the guilt Hale feels leads him quit the bogus proceedings. By Hale’s actions in this act, it is obvious that Hale has once again found God, and realized where the Devil truly is in Salem–not in those being accused of witchcraft, but rather the wicked accusers, and those whom conformed to the beliefs and false accusations of these girls. Parris had fit the mold of a follower of the bogus accusations, and by the end of Act 3, any trace of similarity found between Parris and Hale has now become non-existent.
In Act 4, the actions Parris took to preserve his position and standing in the town, are now leading to his downfall whereas Hale becomes the true voice of the people. The last act is set in the jail where many are awaiting hanging. Hale appears to counsel these people hoping to convince just one to save themselves. Hale meets with Rebecca Nurse, and other women who would not speak a single word to Samuel Parris. It becomes even more obvious that Parris hasn’t changed, especially when he says, “I tell you what is said here, sir. Andover have thrown out the court, they say, and will have no part of witchcraft. There be a faction here, feeding on that news, and I tell you, sir, I fear there will be riot here” (Miller 133). Parris is still utterly consumed with thoughts of himself, rather than those ready to die because they would not lie. The only reason Parris even hints at a bit of guilt is because he recognizes the weight those accused hold and fears the impact they may have on the town. Conversely, Hale is doing all he can to plead with these people. Hale realizes his fault, and is attempts to correct it. By doing this, he gains the respect of those in the town, and creats a clean reputation for himself, while Parris must deal with his blemished reputation and loss of respect from the townsfolk. Both men have realized the fault in their actions, but deal with it differently.
The Crucible by Arthur Miller displays a wonderful development of characters, distinguishing good from evil. Accordingly, Reverend John Hale begins as a self-serving conceited individual, who ultimately sees the light, and attempts to reverse the effects of his actions, but the fact remains that Reverend Samuel Parris ends as he began selfish and self-consumed. At the beginning the men shared some of the same disgusting characteristics, but by the fall of the curtain of the last act, there was no question as to which man was now with God. Parris’ consumption with a good reputation and power left him with a blemished reputation and unemployed. Hale did the right thing, and although he may have not been rewarded, he was not punished either. Certainly in this play, the good prevailed over the evil.