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Oppression in The Crucible 

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In the play, The Crucible by Arthur Miller, the character Hale has a dramatic change throughout the play. Originally, Hale felt superior to everyone else for his knowledge of the world. However, the town of Salem changed, which in turn, changed him morally. There were accusations of witchcraft and the judges of the court were extremely oppressive towards the townspeople, which ultimately caused the change in Hale. Reverend John Hale is the man who tries his best to untangle all messes of the town’s dispute and does all he can to protect his people from the ‘Devil’s spell’ and from accusations.

The reader can see Hale’s pride with his knowledge at the beginning of the play when he states, “Here is all the invisible world, caught, defined, and calculated. In these books the Devil stands stripped of all his brute disguises”. This statement also shows his role at the beginning of the play and reveals him to be a smug, if intelligent, man who calmly explains to the residents of Salem that he can easily identify a witch. His self-assurance will dissolve away as he starts signing death warrants, this makes his morals dramatically change. This is due to the oppressive forces of the court judge, Danforth, and his friend, John Proctor. The way that the judge oppresses Hale is by shrouding him with death. According to the website Academy of Ideas, “Individuals looking to take advantage of, and manipulate others, have long realized the power of fear” (“Fear…”), Hale can be compared to ‘Individuals looking to take advantage of and manipulate others’ for how he represents himself with his books. He automatically assumes he is better than all of the townspeople and uses it to his advantage. The reader sees this happen when the first person is accused, this causes the engineered downfall of the town, “Take courage, you must give us all their names. Tituba; the Devil is out and preying on children like a beast upon the flesh of the pure lamb. God will bless you for your help.” This is when Hale is very acclimated with his wisdom, but will soon realize that there are all developed lies made by Abigale and the girls.

Towards the middle of the play, Hale has begun to realize the destruction Abigail has started. As well as, see how he has played along with her destruction and has started changing his morals. Hale makes this dramatic change because of the stress and the oppression that affects him in a positive way. His empathy for the townspeople and the Proctors really pulls through during the second and third acts. According to Carol Hay, “there is also a self-directed account of the obligation to resist one’s oppression: someone who is oppressed should stick up for herself, you might think, because, by acquiescing in her oppression, she is behaving in a way that is wrong regardless of how others are affected” (22). The reader can compare this to how Hale reacts to Abigale and the courts’ oppressive forces, and how some of the townspeople have also reacted to this oppression. The reader can also infer that Hale has changed when he appears at the Proctor’s house and says “God keep you both; let the third child be quickly baptized, and go you without fail each Sunday in to Sabbath prayer; and keep a solemn, quiet way among you.”, here Hale is trying to prevent Elizabeth from being executed by expressing she should have all of her children baptized even though John does not agree with Reverend Parris’s views and morals. Hay contends that “what is morally objectionable about servility is that it involves a public and systematic willingness to disavow one’s moral status” (22-23). The reader can again, see how Hale has conformed and adapted to the new ways of Salem. As well as his attitude towards some of the townspeople, as there true intentions being revealed. Elizabeth was arrested for witchcraft and the following day at the trial, Hale has inferred that the girls may be lying. He brings this up at the trial with, “If she is innocent! Why do you never wonder if Parris be innocent, or Abigail? Is the accuser always holy now? Were they born this morning as clean as God’s fingers?” this is when Hale begins to bring to question the girls’ integrity. This is when Hale has completely transformed as a character from the book smart scholar, to an empathetic person that tries desperately to save and protect the townspeople and his friends.

By the end of the play, Hale is a changed man. Realizing that his morals and mindset was in the wrong place the entire time, and quickly attempts to remedy it. The reader can infer this when Hale states, “I come to do the Devil’s work. I come to counsel Christians they should believe themselves. There is blood on my head! Can you not see the blood on my head!!” By Act Four, Hale is a changed man. He’s no longer certain of anything, except for the fact that the Salem witch trials have condemned and killed innocent people with his help. Hale attempts to save the innocent by getting them to confess since he was apart of the process that put the people there. Hale eventually realizes that he cannot do anything to implement change in the judges’ decisions to hang those who will not confess to a crime the people did not commit. King argues that “violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love” (2), Hale has witnessed first hand that there is a problem with the system that the judges use. The judges would rather resort to violence, people being hung, rather than have them be put in prison for an amount of time. The reader can almost immediately relate this to King’s quote about violence and love, and how one thrives on immoral individuals. Hale continues to express his concerns with “Excellency, I have signed seventy-two death warrants; I am a minister of the Lord, and I dare not take a life without there be a proof so immaculate no slightest qualm of conscience may doubt it.” Hale is expressing his worry to the court judge, by saying how many people he has condemned to death, even though he is a man of God. This highlights his retaliation of the court and their decisions to condemn so many innocent lives. This also shows the reader how powerful oppression is present in the play.

Overall, The Crucible has a multiplex of examples of oppression and how a multitude of people react to said oppression. Reverend John Hale is the man who tries his best to untangle all messes of the town’s dispute and does all he can to protect his people from the accusations. One of the numerous messages of The Crucible is how a disorderly crowd of people reacts to oppression, and the mentality of the situation, religious and/or political, leads to thoughtless actions. In the play, those actions lead to the persecution of innocent people.

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Oppression in The Crucible . (2022, April 29). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 29, 2023, from
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