Character Analysis of Giles Corey in The Crucible

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Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible is centered around the mass hysteria created by accusations of witchcraft in the Puritan village of Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. These accusations can be blamed on Abigail Williams' affair with John Proctor, the secret grudges that neighbors hold against each other, and the physical and economic differences between the citizens of Salem Village. Because suspicions were at an all-time high, petty accusations were made out to be witchcraft, and bad business deals were blamed on witchery. Among the grudges that help spur the resentment and hostility in the village is one between Giles Corey and Thomas Putnam, who argue about a plot of land and its ownership. Once the accusations begin, everyone has a reason to accuse someone else of witchcraft. When Putnam's daughter accuses George Jacobs of witchery, Corey quickly notices a motive and claims that Putnam only wants Jacobs' land. Additionally, even the slightest offhand remark can result in the suspicion of one working with the devil. In another example of hasty accusations, Giles Corey casually mentions that when his wife is reading, he is unable to say his prayers. However, Reverend Hale takes Giles’ claims the wrong way and Martha Corey is quickly arrested and convicted for witchcraft. In Arthur Miller’s haunting play The Crucible, Giles Corey often announces his feelings without considering the consequences, but redeems himself by refusing to allow the defamation of one of his friends while keeping his property and dignity intact.
Giles Corey is an outspoken member of Salem Village, which can sometimes get himself and others into trouble. Giles, one could say, is infamous in the town for causing disputes and attempting to settle those disputes in court. In one instance, Giles is embedded in an argument with Thomas Putnam about land that he believes rightfully belongs to John Proctor. Putnam is informed that his grandfather had a history of willing away land that he did not own. While the argument does not involve him, Giles feels the need to interject when he supports Proctor’s claim by saying, “That’s God’s truth; he nearly willed away my north pasture” (32). The argument becomes so heated that Putnam threatens to clap a writ on Giles. This, of course, seems of little threat to Giles as he has been in court thir...

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...so much” (40). Incidentally, Giles’ tendency to speak his mind also hurts others, as is the case when his wife is falsely accused of witchcraft, partly due to the information Giles told Reverend Hale. As the play becomes more dramatic and as more innocent lives are taken, the hardened 83-year-old recognizes the growing instability of the Salem courts. When Giles was indicted, he refused to answer aye or nay to his indictment for fear of being hanged and losing his property. Elizabeth explained that Giles “died Christian under the law” (135). By saying he died Christian under the law, Arthur Miller may be comparing Giles to Jesus Christ, in the sense that he was an innocent man who died because others have sinned. Likewise, because Giles took a stand against the corrupt court, many in the village considered him a hero. Clearly, Giles can be considered a dynamic character in the play, as he started out not giving “a hoot for public opinion” (40) but later changed his mind and sacrificed himself for the benefit of others. Giles Corey was able to use his outspoken behavior, which often resulted in the punishment of himself and others, and finally use it for the good of those he loved.

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