The Impact Of Injustice In Crucible
The Crucible, written by Arthur Miller, consists of characters that represent different viewpoints of a corrupt Puritan society. The play explores the theocratic community as strange events unfold, leading to accusations of witchcraft. With allegations transpiring left and right, few characters remain open-minded. As a result, when a character switches standpoints to acknowledge the injustices, it stands out. The role of Reverend Hale in the story provides this change in outlook from an outsider’s point of view. Hale, a stranger to Salem, is presented as a religious man with pride only for himself. After the witch trials, however, he focuses all his attention on saving those about to be executed. Reverend Hale’s exposure to the injustice of a new community caused his mindset to shift from arrogant and devout to one determined to help the accused, even if it meant going against his church.
The town of Salem welcomes Hale as an expert in witchcraft. His previous experience with witches and dedication to his church made the Puritan community respect his judgment. Consequently, when he enters the play, he views himself as superior. During his arrival in Salem from a nearby village, Reverend Hale is introduced as one who “feels himself allied with the best minds of Europe – kings, philosophers, scientists, and ecclesiasts of all churches” (36). This quote entails his arrogance as he considers himself at the same level of brilliance and supremacy as the most influential people in Europe. Another trait of his is later revealed in Act Two when Hale visits the Proctors to test Elizabeth’s innocence. Proctor fails to name all the commandments and calls it a minor mistake, but Hale counters back: “Theology…is a fortress; no crack in a fortress may be accounted small” (67). In Hale’s metaphor, he explains how powerful religion is and foreshadows how the community would later use this idea to justify the executions of those who threatened the religion, or ‘witches’. Proctor’s simple error was problematic in the eyes of someone who deeply honored Puritanism. Between his heavy faith and egotism, it only takes one day in Salem for Reverend Hale to show the community his defining attributes.
In the courtroom, a different side of Hale emerges as he starts to see the lack of fairness in the community. He knows that witchcraft is a serious crime that leads to execution. As he watches Danforth indict women with little evidence, Hale finally acknowledges the corruption: “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 proof so immaculate no slightest qualm of conscience may doubt it” (99). After reminding the court of his superiority and religion, Hale suggests that the women should not be prosecuted without clear evidence. He understands the criminality of witchcraft but is beginning to see the unjust ways of Salem. Within this scene, the reader can see Hale in a new manner with the reveal of another character trait: righteousness.
After watching the accused fight for their lives in the courtroom, Reverend Hale no longer believes in justice. He abandons his reputation and Puritan values as he revisits Salem, attempting to save the prisoners. Hale is standing in the jail when Elizabeth enters. Knowing that her husband’s execution was within the hour, Hale recounts his experience in Salem: “I came into this village…bearing gifts of high religion…what I touched with my bright confidence, it died”. His dialogue recounts how mighty he felt walking into a new place with thoughts of piety until corruption surfaces. The town had fallen to chaos upon his arrival, causing him to blame himself. Hale’s pride is rupturing and his next words defend his return to the town: “life is God’s most precious gift; no principle, however glorious, may justify the taking of it…God damns a liar less than he that throws his life away for pride” (132). Instead of using his theology to accuse women of witchery as he did in the beginning, Hale now uses it to help the same individuals avoid death. He believes God would prefer to watch them commit perjury than die with dignity. Hale’s new lack of confidence and faith illustrates the impact of injustice.
Hale displays a dramatic shift throughout the story. He enters as an arrogant man with indifference towards the wellbeing of others, speaking of witchcraft only to boost his ego and support his religion. As the play continues, the corruption of the court causes Hale to disregard his reputation and go against his divinity. To the reader, this transformation helps emphasize the injustice of Salem. To achieve this symbolism, Arthur Miller needed a character who would not be aware of the disputes and urge for revenge between the townspeople. Since Reverend Hale resided in a different village, he was able to form his own opinion and identify the corruption within Salem. This aspect of the play clarified how unfair and wrong the witch trials were.
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