the crucible

Table of Contents

In a community, people generally rely on the power of the justice system to protect them, by judges, lawyers and a court system that has a fair trial. The decisions made by the justice system are based on evidence that is based upon facts and eyewitness testimonies. When the leaders of a society misuse their power, and make bad decisions, it can bring tragedy upon people within a community. In The Crucible Not only did the misuse of power condemn people to die at the noose, it tore apart the fabric of their society. It also condemned people that were actually good people and deserve to live and have a peaceful, happy life within the community of Salem. Instead they were ostracized, ridiculed and essentially they were murdered by the acts of self righteous figures making up their own rules of the game within their community. The actions of a few people who have voice and authority led the community down a path of social disruption and tragedy, through self righteousness, arrogance and ignorance. One of the main characters in the script “The Crucible”, Judge Danforth a deputy governor sent to oversee the witch trials, swaggers into Salem, fully convinced of his importance in this matter. Judge Danforth’s presence is felt immediately when he arrives in the third act of the play, when John Proctor, Giles Corey, and Francis Nurse approach him with evidence in defense of their wives, who have been charged by the judges with witchcraft. Danforth responds to their challenges in a scornful manner, asking “Do you know who I am” (Miller 1139) as if his mere presence should solve everyone’s problems. Later, he gets upset from a question Reverend Hale asks by saying, ‘you surely do not doubt my justice.’ (Miller 1144). Danforth apparently thinks he’s above questioning. In another instance Danforth’s attitude when he questions Francis Nurse for his judgment and input during the trials. In return Danforth replies “ And do you know that near four hundred are in jail… upon my signature”(Miller 1139) and “ seventy-two to hang by that signature?” (Miller 1139). Within the context of the script these lines show evidence that by having the power to condemn people to die, Danforth is proud of his actions and his power as a judge. He boasts about his accomplishments and takes immense pride in stating that his signature will lead to the execution of many people. Despite hearing about mass opposition and rebellion at the Andover witchcraft trials, Danforth refuses to postpone the hangings and tells Reverend Parris “Now hear me, and beguile yourselves no more… Postponement now speaks a floundering on my part.” (Miller 1142). Danforth arrogantly waves off the request of postponement made by Hale and Parris. He thinks that the act of postponement of the hangings will raise the issue of his credibility as a judge. Danforth will prove through his actions that his decisions will lead to the destruction of trustworthiness in the community and bring tragedy to Salem. Salem is a town dependent upon unity and participation, it teaches people from a young age to recognize the needs of the community as greater than the needs of the individual. Salem forces unity and social conformity through religion. Religion in Salem also acts as the judicial system as well, making it particularly difficult for people to rebel against the practices of the church. Therefore every member of the community must follow a set of religious rules. Because of this structure, the people live in fear of the leaders that represent the church, that prosecutes all dissenters and threatens them with hangin’s and going to hell. This causes the community to blindly follow suit and do as they are told. However, one man that did stand up and lead the community into a better direction was John Proctor, who chose to risk his life and fight for change. However we can see from the lack of proper leadership, oppressive and an uncompromising court system can corrupt a community. A community requires a strong leader to guide people in the right direction, maintain the values of the people, and correct the path of the misguided ones. John Proctor attempts to become a leader and disassemble the corrupt system in place. When people like Reverend Parris, Reverend Harris and Judge Danforth are put in a position of power the system becomes corrupt. Reverend Harris focuses on his own agenda seeking to control others through his exorcist mind powers. Of course it’s apparent he needs to convince people he has special powers, because he’s requiring them to pay a fee for his reverend services. He justifies this by saying he’s from Harvard and needs a house to live in. When disputing his own salary, Reverend Harris refers to himself saying: “a minister is not to be so lightly crossed and contradicted […] There is only obedience or the church will burn like Hell” (Miller 1112). He acts like a tyrant demanding authority without any defiance, and disregards others opinions no matter what reason or logic is in their claim. On the other side, Judge Danforth is so unwilling to make any exceptions to the rules that he allows the sentencing of innocent people to their death for not confessing to their imaginary claims against them. In addition, justice is lost when people who rightfully disagree with authority do not have the courage to act on their beliefs and so they remain silent in the face of persecution. In this story moral evil is the immorality, pain and suffering and tragedy that come because people decided to be selfish, arrogant, uncaring, hateful and abusive. It also demonstrated a society void of good morality. The phrase “honesty is the best policy,” apparently didn’t apply to many Puritans within Salem. The accusations throughout the story are built upon lie after lie from those trying to protect their own name, thus tearing apart the community and causing a state of confusion and chaos. Nobody in this small town of Salem, Massachusetts knows who they should trust anymore, after all of these false allegations made. Even John Proctor, a leader of the community, lies in order to protect his name. However, what is more troubling is the authority figures inability to restore moral order. When Abigail goes to court in front of Judge Danforth, she begins feigning some sort of possession by the devil and her friends play along with this make believe act. Danforth doesn’t dismiss this as a ploy by the girls, he actually supports the lie and so do others. Towards the end of the play however, John Proctor attempts to break the cycle of accusations by revealing his affair with Abigail to the community. This confession is then overruled by an accusation of witchcraft against him. Proctor’s courageous decision to die rather than to confess to something he did not do, eventually broke the vicious cycle of false accusations and corruption. Another character, Reverend Parris, also demonstrates the immoral actions of those claiming to be highly religious. In Act I Parris appears at first to be worried about the health of his young daughter, but in reality he is more concerned with his position in the church and his reputation. Miller writes “Child. Sit you down. Now look you, child-if you trafficked with spirits in the forest, I must know it, for surely my enemies will, and they‘ll ruin me with it…Abigail, do you understand that I have many enemies?” (Miller 1110). As a preacher and leader of the community, Parris is expected to be concerned mostly with the spiritual well being of his congregation, not his position of power in Salem. Parris immorality comes into question when he commits perjury: “I can only say, sir, that I never found any of them—naked, and this man is… then Danforth says: “You discovered them dancing in the woods? Abigail?” Hale: “Excellency, when I first arrived from Beverly, Mister Parris told me that”. Danforth: Do you deny it, Mister Parris? Parris: I do not, sir, but I never saw any of them naked” (Miller 1110). In the beginning of the play, Reverend Parris further proves to be an immoral character when Abigail steals his money and runs off with it. Her sneaking off before the witch-hunt is over suggests that she is guilty of lying about the people she accused of witchcraft. Reverend Parris realizes this and tries to tell judges Danforth and Hathorne, but he only begins to cry and show remorse when he talks about losing his money. There is no indication of remorse for all the innocent people who have been found guilty of witchcraft and hanging out with the devil, he’s really only concerned with his own personal well being. In this community, children lied, that’s a common event that occurs. But when it’s eventually leads to the execution of people within a community something seriously went wrong along the way. When leaders of a society misuse their power, and make bad decisions, it can bring tragedy upon people within a community. In The Crucible the misuse of power led people dying and it tore apart their society. In the hands of a few people with the authority to change the course of immoral behavior and change the outcome of a tragedy, instead choose to become immoral themselves, pain and suffering and tragedy will occur because people decided to be selfish, arrogant, uncaring, hateful and abusive. It demonstrated a society void of good morality.