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Depiction of Strict Puritan Beliefs in The Crucible

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Words: 1395 |

Pages: 3|

7 min read

Published: Dec 16, 2021

Words: 1395|Pages: 3|7 min read

Published: Dec 16, 2021

Throughout history, there have been many mass hysterias, one of which was the Salem Witch Trials of 1693. Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is set during this period of distress and begins when Abigail and a couple of other girls accuse other citizens of witchcraft. As Puritans, this comes as a shock and causes chaos to spread throughout the city, tearing down the social order. Everyone turns on one another, lies are made, and the people are left to fend for themselves. In the play, Arthur Miller illustrates the extremity many characters will go to in order to risk their reputation and restore social order through the sacrifices characters make in the play.

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During the play, Proctor often makes sacrifices to his reputation in an attempt to stop the madness from escalating. He takes Mary Warren and goes to court with a petition and depositions, but fails to change the judges’ minds. As a result, he decides to confess committing adultery with Abigail. Proctor argues that Abigail “‘thinks to dance with [him] on [his] wife’s grave!...[he] lusted, and there is a promise in such sweat...it is a whore’s vengeance, and [they] must see it’”. He jeopardizes his name and reputation to try to convince the judges that Abigail is evil and a fraud. He does so because he comes to terms with the fact that he can not hide his secret forever if he ever wants to forgive himself. This comes as a shock because Proctor is very well respected and well known in the city. The horrific struggles that many are going through are conveyed through that fact that Proctor is willing to risk his name for the benefit of others. The dire situation is also illustrated through the countless numbers of innocent people dying from the girls’ false claims. Since everyone in the city praises the girls, due to the fact that they believe that the girls are helping clear the city of witches, the girls’ false claims make Proctors’ attempts at restoring social order far more difficult. He feels the need to sacrifice his name because of how easily everyone turns on one another from the quick accusations being made. Many people naturally believe the girls as a result of their extreme Puritan culture—that anything unknown is caused by an evil spirit. This allows the witchcraft to spread even faster because blaming the devil is the easiest explanation for everything that happens. In addition, Proctor gives up his own life for his name and his morals, and refuses to live if it meant his name would be signed to lies. Proctor believes that he is not “‘worth the dust on the feet of them that hang!’” and says, “‘How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!’”. He feels that his name, integrity, and pride are already ruined due to his affair with Abigail, so he believes that sacrificing himself will allow him to forgive himself from his sins and at the same time hopefully save the rest of the accused from being hanged. He does not wish to live knowing that he has committed a sin that is against the Puritan beliefs and knowing that he has betrayed his wife. Proctor refuses to become like all the other people who lied to save their own lives. The fact that he is unwilling to bring himself to “confess” his witchcraft proves that although he has made mistakes before, he is a very noble man with a good conscience and will own up to his wrongdoings. His sacrifice allows him to find peace in himself, something he has not had in a long time. His sacrifice is crucial to restoring social order because he demonstrates the importance of dying with honor and righteousness, rather than living with a lie. He demonstrates to the rest of the city that if people continue to lie to save their lives and for all the innocent people of Salem, the trial will never end, and therefore, even more deaths will occur. Proctor’s death led to the end of the witch trials, and not long after, social order was restored.

Besides John Proctor, his wife, Elizabeth Proctor, also makes risky sacrifices to her reputation in order to put an end to Salem’s hysteria. When Elizabeth Proctor is brought out to testify if John Proctor committed lechery, she tries to protect her husband and refers to her husband as a “‘godly man’”, but when Danforth finally asks, “‘Is your husband a lecher!’”, she hesitates and says, “‘No, sir’”. By blatantly lying about her husband’s actions, she prioritizes her husband’s reputation over her Puritan beliefs of goodness and risks getting into trouble. Like Proctor, she is selfless and risks her own reputation to save others. Elizabeth Proctor wants to allow Proctor to remain his good image in the city and is convinced that lying about his lechery will help him do so. Both Proctor and Elizabeth choose to sacrifice their own reputations and do as much as they can to help the rest of the city, which is why they make a huge impact on restoring social order in Salem. Towards the end of the play, once Proctor chooses not to confess his alleged witchcraft, Reverend Hale asks Elizabeth to convince Proctor to confess, yet she chooses not to. Elizabeth acts this way out of love because she knows that John will never forgive himself if he confesses. She understands that if he is hanged, “‘He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!’”. Elizabeth tells Proctor, “‘I want you living, John. That’s sure’”, yet she sacrifices her love and happiness in order to allow him to do what he thinks is right, earn his “goodness,” and because it is benefits the rest of the town. Because the people of Salem know that John Proctor is a noble man and would not sacrifice his own life for no reason, Elizabeth’s sacrifice further restores social order because as she allows Proctor to get hanged, that message is sent to the judges and the whole city, exposing that the whole situation was a fraud. During the hanging of Proctor, he is joined by another highly respected member of the town, Rebecca Nurse. As the two of the most honorable people continue to get hanged, it leads to the end of the Salem Witch Trials.

To help further restore social order, another crucial character Reverend Hale plays a significant role in ending the Salem Witch Trials by standing up for his beliefs and sacrificing his important status in the town. While everyone is in the courtroom during the play, Hale realizes that everything is a lie, so he argues, “‘Excellency, it is natural lie to tell; I beg you, stop now before another is condemned! I may shut my conscience to it no more - private vengeance is working through this testimony!’”. Hale attempts to inform the judges that the girls are frauds, and he reveals that the girls are using the testimony to get revenge on people in the city, for instance, Abigail trying to get back at Elizabeth. Hale sacrifices his high reputation in the city to defend Proctor and the people getting wrongly accused. He fights for what he believes in and disregards the possibility that people will now see him as less. Towards the end of the play, Hale begins making an effort to convince the accused to confess to witchcraft, so that they will be able to live, which is extremely ironic since Hale is a member of the church, and therefore, he is expected to be following their Puritain beliefs, church commandments, and laws. Instead, he goes against his morals to save as many people as he can, telling them to lie.

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Although lies are a big part of the play, the risky sacrifices that the characters make ultimately displays the good in human nature that allows the characters to do so. Through Proctor, Elizabeth, and Hale, Miller uses their selflessness for each other to reflect the importance of their Puritan beliefs. Their strict religion drives many into committing crimes and evils, but Proctor, Elizabeth, and Hale are clearly shown to return back to their Puritan beliefs. The unforgettable madness caused in the community by the young girls show that, in the end, sacrifices must be made to restore social order. 

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Depiction Of Strict Puritan Beliefs In The Crucible. (2021, December 16). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 16, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/depiction-of-strict-puritan-beliefs-in-the-crucible/
“Depiction Of Strict Puritan Beliefs In The Crucible.” GradesFixer, 16 Dec. 2021, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/depiction-of-strict-puritan-beliefs-in-the-crucible/
Depiction Of Strict Puritan Beliefs In The Crucible. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/depiction-of-strict-puritan-beliefs-in-the-crucible/> [Accessed 16 Jun. 2024].
Depiction Of Strict Puritan Beliefs In The Crucible [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 Dec 16 [cited 2024 Jun 16]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/depiction-of-strict-puritan-beliefs-in-the-crucible/
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