The Crucible: Good Puritan or Good Person?

The Crucible: Good Puritan or Good Person?

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                 In The Crucible, Arthur Miller portrays the two main characters, John Proctor and Reverend John Hale as "good men". The term "good men" in this play is ambiguous.  Reverend John Hale was a good man in the sense of being the perfect and good citizen of Massachusetts in the 1600's.  He was pious, adherent to the laws and beliefs, and a good Puritan Christian.  John Proctor, on the contrary would not be considered the greatest citizen. He was not so religious, nor the perfect Christian, and was not so adherent to the Puritan's laws and beliefs. However, he was still considered a "good man", as a person rather than being an ideal Puritan citizen. He was very honest, moral, loyal to his friends and family, and was generous.  The two men can be contrasted as good Puritan vs. good person.

               The most important trait to prove that John Proctor was a good person was his honesty. In every scene in the play that John Proctor is in, his commendable honesty stands out.  It didn't matter how much trouble he would bring himself into, his philosophy was "I may speak my heart" (Miller, p.30).  Proctor's honesty eventually lead to his downfall and death.

               The first incident in the play where we see Proctor's honesty is after the affair he had with Abigail. He realized his mistake and was honest and admitted it to his wife Elizabeth.  In the next situation where Proctor is involved he tells the Reverend Parris why he does not like him, and it also gets him into trouble. He tells him, "Can you speak one minute without we land in hell again, I'm sick of hell! (p. 30). He is honest, yet disrespectful to his reverend.  While in court, John Proctor is too honest to the judges. He admits his guilt of not being a religious Christian and says " I have once or twice plowed on Sunday" (p.91) and he also admits not going to church every Sunday. He  also admits that he committed adultery and had an affair with Abigail. His most commendable moment of honesty was when he was on death row and would rather die than confess and lie.  

               Proctor's morality, and loyalty also contribute to being a good person.  When the marshals Herrick and Cheever came to arrest his wife, he stuck with her to protect her, even though she was accused of being a witch.

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He is bold by ripping up the warrant, and risked getting arrested to help her. He is strict to the officer of law and tells him "you'll leave her out of sight and out of mind, mister!" (p.74). He publicly curses the deputy governor, "Damn the deputy governor! Out of my house!" (p.77) He makes a sacrifice to help his family rather than help himself.

               Proctor was a good man, though not such a good Puritan Christian. He did not go to church every Sunday, and broke the Sabbath by plowing. He violated one of the ten commandments by committing adultery. "He is a sinner against the moral fashion of time" (p. 20),  states the narrator of this play.  Nor did he believe in all the Puritan beliefs and laws. He didn't believe that witchcraft was invading the community, "I have wondered if there be witches in the world - although I cannot believe they come among us now" (p.69). This is considered heresy towards the beliefs of the Puritan religious authority, and the Reverend Hale points that out to Proctor. Proctor did not have faith in the court system and clearly disregarded the official court warrant.

               John Hale was a good citizen.  He was a very pious Puritan, by the fact that he became a reverend.  Also, he was shocked by the fact that someone missed a day of church, and could plow on Sabbath becaue he believed "a Christian on Sabbath Day must be in Church!" (p. 51) . He is an expert in the field witchcraft, therefore believing in the existence of witches, as the Puritans did, and says that "we shall find him out if he has come among us, and I mean to crush him utterly if he has shown his face" (p. 39). Hale does believe that the devil has come and that he has the power and knowledge to crush him.  He is shocked to find out that Elizabeth does not believe that witches exist. Hale has faith and believes in the court system. When Francis was complaining that his wife was arrested and she is not a witch, since Hale had faith in the court told him, "Let you rest upon the justice of the court; the court will send her home, I know it" (p.71) , when in fact the court did not find her innocent. Because Hale was a good Puritan, he could not believe that the court was unjust.

                The definition of what a good Puritan should be is defined by the characteristics of Reverend John Hale.  A good person has the characteristics of John Proctor. Both were good in their own ways. Proctor was not considered such a good man in the Puritan society though- he was hated by many in his community, and sentenced to death by them.  Hale on the other hand is not such a moral person, more of a moral failure.  His pride and meddling into the lives of everyone lead to almost everyone's downfall.  He thinks that he is so smart and can solve all the witch problems.  He causes Abigail and the girls to blurt out the witches, which causes the whole mess with the Proctors getting in trouble with the law. He gets Rebecca Nurse in trouble by taking Francis's suspicions of reading books into account.  He causes many false witches in the community to die, causing them and their husbands their downfall.  His downfall is losing the respect and being hated by almost everyone in the community.
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