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Nationwide, students in history classes study and learn about the infamous incident known as the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Through textbooks and research, students learn about this event from a factual and objective point of view. Students learn such facts like 19 men and women were hanged because they were convicted of witchcraft. Students learn the essential information as deemed important by their teacher; yet, students do not have the opportunity to learn about the trials from a subjective and personal point of view. Arthur Miller uses such a view point in his play The Crucible, which personifies the sentiments, attitudes, and standpoints of the people in Salem who were directly involved in the trials. Through Miller's poignant perspective, he shows the readers another side of the witch trials through the eyes of the actual participants. One such participant in the play who provides the readers with this valuable perspective is Reverend John Hale, a minister from Beverly who is called to Salem to investigate Salem's eccentric problem. Nonetheless, Reverend John Hale's perspective does not stay constant throughout the entire play. In Arthur Miller's The Crucible, the beliefs and principles of Reverend John Hale change dramatically, as the events of the Salem Witch Trials cause him to question his moral values and initial intentions.
Before the Salem Witch Trials even occur and even early in the proceedings, Reverend Hale arrives in Salem with a concrete commitment to authority. He comes to Salem with a determined objective to investigate the situation and to use his expertise in witchcraft to aid the people of Salem in their bedlam. He is not only considered an expert in witchcraft, but he also considers himself an expert in witchcraft. With an air of pride, Reverend Hale places a certain emphasis on doing things in a precise and respectable manner. He relies heavily on the power of the written word and pays no heed to superstition. For example, when Reverend Parris comments on how heavy the books must be that Reverend Hale is carrying, Reverend Hale shows his resolute conviction for the written word by replying, "They must be; they are weighted with authority" (36). Reverend Hale believes that the written word, whether it is in books, or written as the law, has such a heavy weight as an authoritative voice in society. He believes that there should be little or no questioning as to the righteousness of the written word. In reality, these books of authority are what give Reverend Hale his authority in the society of Salem. He is only respected for his wisdom in witchcraft, which he has acquired solely from books. Without them, Reverend Hale would be no better than the others, a man with an opinion just like the rest. Reverend Hale uses his knowledge on witchcraft to look for a supernatural explanation to explain the incident since he does not wish to turn to superstition as the root of the problem. Reverend Hale believes staunchly in the absolute power of the church and affiliates himself in Salem as solely through the church and the court. When Goody Proctor suspects Reverend Hale is accusing her of witchcraft, he counters that his duty is "to add what [he] may to the Godly wisdom of the court" (67). Reverend Hale defends his work and still stands steadfastly behind his intentions. He states his intention as providing some spiritual influence to the reputed power of the church. Reverend Hale actually seeks witches and gets them to confess, just so God can bless them and rid them of the devil. Although Reverend Hale's intentions are not depraved, his intentions in Salem do not prioritize the welfare of the people. Instead, he is predisposed towards the supremacy of the law and the church and thus proceeds in Salem in accordance to these priorities.
The proceedings of the Salem Witch Trials induce a remarkable transformation in the beliefs and credence of Reverend Hale. Reverend Hale has an epitome while listening to John Proctor and Mary Warren; he becomes convinced that they, not Abigail, are telling the truth. Now he changes from the advocator who encourages the accused to confess to witchcraft to the challenger who opposes the witch trials altogether. As his belief in witchcraft falters, so does his faith in the law. After Danforth arrests Giles and Proctor, Hale is so angered with Danforth that he proclaims, "I denounce these proceedings, I quit this court! (120)." Reverend Hale realizes now that the court system is corrupt and biased. The people of Salem are not able to defend themselves against the tyranny of the court system without being condemned for their attempt. For this reason, Reverend Hale finds it necessary to break all relations with the court. He does not want to be associated with a system so corrupt and feared by the people of Salem. Not only does Reverend Hale change in his beliefs, he also changes his sense of duty in Salem. Reverend Hale no longer is probing for confessions of witchcraft to free their souls of the devil; he now counsels the accused witches to lie - to confess their supposed sins in order to save their own lives. When Reverend Hale is trying to convince Goody Proctor to persuade her husband to confess to the accusation of witchcraft, he warns her, "Beware, Goody Proctor cleave to no faith when faith brings blood. It is mistaken law that leads you to sacrifice. Life, woman, life is God's most precious gift" (132). Reverend Hale is no longer the prideful church official he once was. Instead of prioritizing religion and God above all else, he tells Goody Proctor that any faith causing this much turmoil and agony is not worth following. He acknowledges that he came with a mistaken duty, but now he believes that he has found his credence in Salem. He admits to being blinded by his religion blinded so that he could not even see the tribulations causes directly from his high faith. He insists that survival is the highest good, even if it means accommodating oneself to injustice. After Reverend Hale realizes the immorality of the court system in Salem, all of his beliefs and viewpoints change as a result of his realization. This realization promotes both his denunciation of the court system in Salem and his questioning of the importance of religion.
Reverend Hale goes through a momentous change in his views and beliefs in regard to his estimation of the power of the law and authority. His respect for authority disintegrates as he learns that everything in life that he once placed emphasis on, like the power of the written word and the power of the church, is corrupt in the town of Salem. Reverend Hale comes to the conclusion that the law is not absolute, one does not need to strictly adhere to the law, and that authority does not always preside over everything. Reverend Hale is left as a broken man, as the beliefs that molded him as a character and gave him substance were proven as fallacious in his eyes. Reverend Hale recognizes the evil in the town of Salem, yet in response, he does not choose defiance, but surrender. When he stops believing in witchcraft, he stops believing in everything that he once believed to be true. Not only does he no longer believe in the prevalence of law, he no longer believes in the ascendancy of religion over all aspects of life. As Reverend Hale loses his conviction for authority, he correspondingly loses his identity, yet, in the eyes of the reader, he gains respect and sympathy in its place.
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"Reverend Hale In The Crucible." 123HelpMe.com. 19 May 2013