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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.
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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.