The Crucible , by Arthur Miller, is a story of injustice and the consequences that follow. The characters are thrown into situations where they are forced to look deep inside themselves to decide how their actions will affect others. The results can be seen as good or evil depending on the point of view of the reader. The two main characters that must choose between what is right or wrong are John Proctor and Reverend Hale. The crucible takes place during the McCarthy era when being accused of being a communist was thought to be an act against America.
Under these circumstances, The Crucible takes place in Salem, Massachusetts where mass hysteria breaks out leading many innocent people with “afflictions” to accuse other citizens of witchcraft simply because someone else is accusing them. The main character John Proctor is a farmer who has already been accused of adultery and fornication, but he has since confessed to it and signed a paper saying that he will not take part in any witchcraft from here on out.
The play begins with Reverend Hale arriving from Boston to Salem to help the afflicted townspeople find the witches so the witch hunt will stop quickly before more people are falsely accused. The first example of what can be seen as good or evil is when Reverend Hale asks John Proctor if he believes there are more witches in Salem than they already know about. The reader can view this question as an act that demands one simple answer, however, John Proctor sees through all of Reverend Hale’s judgments and knows what he is really looking for.
The reader can see John Proctor’s response to this question as good because he protects his wife, Elizabeth, even though she has already been accused of being a witch. The way the dialogue goes in this scene shows that John Proctor does not believe there are more witches in Salem but Reverend Hale pressures him to say there are so when they return things will go back to normal in Salem.
The audience sees this by how Reverend Hale says “The people are almost beyond their own defense” meaning that the people have gone out of control with the mass hysteria and how it will be hard to stop them from accusing innocent people without any real evidence . The reader may feel an increased sense of unworthiness as John Proctor must lie to save his wife knowing that he should tell the truth. The fact that he lies for her could be seen as good because she is innocent and has done nothing wrong, however, it can also be viewed as evil because they both know what will happen if he says there are no more witches in Salem.
John Proctor’s refusal to tell Reverend Hale what he wants to hear is an example of how he does not care about himself but rather the wellbeing of others. The reader may feel a sense of pride as John Proctor stands up for what is right even though it will most likely cost him his life. The reader may view this through either an individualistic lens or a collectivistic lens by seeing that John Proctor is willing to die for what he knows is right rather than lie and save his own life.
The reader my view this as evil because John Proctor knows that by saying they are no more witches in Salem the hunt will most likely stop but it could also be viewed as good because he will not sacrifice his values to save himself. The reader may believe John Proctor made the right choice if they believe individuals should hold themselves accountable for their actions, however, if they think society is primarily concerned with protecting people then they would view it as evil because John’s selfish decision has now put many other lives at risk just so he can ensure his wife’s safety.
The second example of what can be seen as good or evil takes place when Reverend Hale is accusing John Proctor’s wife of being a witch. The reader may initially believe that it is good as the Reverend Hale tries to prove Elizabeth is a witch so he can return power back to the town and force them to stop accusing innocent people. The reader may view this as evil if they believe there are more witches in Salem and society needs to find them before something worse happens, or that Reverend Hale has gone too far with his accusations and should let Elizabeth go because she had already confessed.
The debate on whether or not what Reverend Hale was doing was right continues through most of The Crucible due to his constant flip-flopping from good intentions to bad intentions. The fact of the matter is that though it could be viewed as good that he is trying to save the people of Salem, The Crucible also shows that Reverend Hale does not always use proper judgment in his actions. The reader must see if they want John Proctor’s wife to be released from being accused as a witch because The Crucible has shown many times throughout this play that those who accuse others without any real evidence have been proven wrong.
The readers can believe what John Proctor says about how there are more witches in Salem and the only way to stop them is by finding them before it is too late. The reader may feel fear for those who have already been accused as innocent because their lives could now be at risk just like Abigail’s life was when she was accused of being a witch. The fact that The Crucible shows that the people of Salem are capable of accusing innocent people without any evidence may make The Crucible seem pessimistic. The reader can see it as evil when they accept their actions and continue to accuse others based on rumors.
The reader may also see this is good because The Crucible has already proven how wrong these accusations can be so perhaps people will learn from these mistakes and stop accusing others for no reason. The story concludes with the fact that John Proctor’s wife was not hanged along with many other accused witches but society still continues to live in fear that there are still more witches in Salem just waiting to strike at another moment’s notice. The values an individual holds can determine whether or not they view something as good or evil.
The Crucible uses the idea that John Proctor is willing to die for his values whether it be because he believes what he is saying or because he does not want to sacrifice his relationship with Elizabeth, but The Crucible also proves that even if someone’s actions are good they can still have harmful consequences similar to what happened with Reverend Hale who had good intentions but ended up doing more harm than good. The reader must decide how they feel about The Crucible based on their own perception of what is right and wrong in society.