Integrity in The Crucible

Integrity in The Crucible

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?What is left when honor is lost?? Publilius Syrus' quote, though dating from 100 B.C., still seems pertinent to our era (Quotations). Many people still feel that once integrity is lost they are nothing and many are willing to stand up to keep their integrity. Without integrity, we are nothing. During the time that Arthur Miller wrote his most famous play, The Crucible, innocent men and women are accused of having Communist leanings. Their whole lives are ruined in a short amount of time because they refuse to compromise themselves by selling out their friends. Miller tries to make a statement about these unfair trials by comparing them to the Salem witch-hunts and trials of 1692. The main protagonist of his play is a man named John Proctor who is accused of witchcraft but stands up to maintain his name and his honor, even though he is hanged for it. During the H.U.A.C. trials some took stands for their beliefs with the knowledge of possibly being shunned by society. Knowing this, instead of taking the cowards' way and giving the names of their friends, they refuse to tell the committee anything in the same way that John Proctor stands up against a court that is ruining the lives of innocent people.
In The Crucible, a few of the townspeople speak out against the injustice of the magistrates. These include John Proctor, Giles Corey, his wife Martha, Rebecca Nurse, Elizabeth Proctor, and even Reverend John Hale. Proctor refuses to give up his integrity and sign his name to a false confession. He thought it was enough admitting to a lie, but he can not bear to sign a confession when others had died for refusing to give the courts what they want. "Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul, leave me my name!" exclaims Proctor (886). Giles Corey is being pressed to death for not giving the court the name of an innocent person. Even to the end he refuses to give in. "Great stones they lay upon his chest until he plead aye or nay. They say he give them but two words. `More weight,' he says. And died," explains Elizabeth (883).

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Even the Reverend John Hale, who is involved in the court, speaks out against the proceedings: "I denounce these proceedings, I quit this court!" (876). He leaves the court because he believes they are unjust. Martha Corey and Rebecca Nurse maintain their integrity and refuse to sign a confession, and they hang alongside John Proctor because of this. Elizabeth Proctor does not compromise herself, but is allowed to live because she is pregnant.
In the 1950s, innocent people are accused of being Communist sympathizers and are deprived of their livelihood. They are blacklisted, which means no one will hire them because they are labeled as Communists, and they are not accepted in society either. Some people give the committee names of their associates to keep themselves out of trouble, but not everyone does this. Some stand up for themselves and speak out against the court regardless of what will happen. This is a big sacrifice and it proves that they have integrity. One of these few is John Howard Lawson, who is one of "The Hollywood Ten". He goes on trial before the committee and claims that they are encroaching on his rights as an American citizen. He is not afraid of the committee and tells them exactly what he thinks. When they try to bully him into revealing the information they wanted, he responds, "I am glad you have made it perfectly clear that you are going to threaten and intimidate the witness, Mr. Chairman," (History). They threaten to hold him in contempt of court for trying to speak against them, and they refuse to read his statement. He is excused from the stand after accusing the committee of "using the old technique, which was used in Hitler Germany in order to create a scare," (History). He is excused from the stand to the sound of applause. His statement, which is not released to the public until years later, accuses the House on un-American Activities Committee of seeking to "subvert orderly government and establish an autocratic dictatorship,? (History). John Howard Lawson is sent to prison for one year and after his release he retreats to Mexico to hide from his blacklisting. He is not the only one who refuses to give in. The playwright Lillian Hellman tells the committee that she will not cut her "conscience to fit this year's fashions," (History). Many other successful careers are crushed just as Giles Corey is, for not naming names.
Integrity always plays an important role in human history and continues to play a role in today?s society. In the 1600's people take a stand for themselves during the witchcraft trials in Salem, some even lose their life for it. History repeats itself with the Un-American Activities Committee hearings, where many innocent people lose their careers and are rejected by society. History always repeats itself, and we need to remember how to react when it happens again. Remember the words of Publilius Syrus, "What is left when honor is lost?" (Quotations).
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