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Preserving One's Reputation In The Crucible

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Artur Miller writes the play, The Crucible, which describes the events of the 1960’s Salem witch hunt. However, he writes theses events as an allegory to the 1950’s ‘witch hunt’ in America against the communist party. The characters in the play portray different types of people during the 1950s. In this play, Salam, the town is under terror from supernatural acts, however, the town fears more of being accused of witchcraft. In the period of accusations of witchcraft over 150 town people were accused of leading twenty people to their deaths, nineteen women and one man. The characters of the play are all seen breaking moral codes in hopes to keep a strong reputation in the puratantism town. John Proctor, Abigail Williams, and Reverend Parris are only three of the vast majority of people in the town who had done so much wrong to save themselves while in some cases throwing others under the metaphorical bus. These characters acted in such cunning ways and sometimes with such thought to their actions that it would ensure their safety and guarantee a good reputation in the long run. Miller utilizes these characters to portray the message that it is difficult to preserve one’s reputation no matter how hard a person tries, asking whether or not a good name is more important than the truth. John, Abigail, and Parris all share in characteristics around their egotistical tendencies, their traits and the way they act all give the audience an insight into the corruption and devastation in that day and age.

John Proctor, the main protagonist of the play, is a hard-working, passionate, and determined character. He has made some wrong decisions, mainly deciding to do wrong by his sick wife by committing an affair with his housemaid, Abigail Williams. These decisions led him to decide whether his name holds more importance over his life. Proctor reveals his selfish desire to preserve his image in the final act of the play. He believes that his legacy was of greater importance than the only life he was given. In The Crucible, after Proctor signs his confession he says, “I have confessed myself! Is there no good penitence but it be public? God does not need my name nailed upon the church! God sees my name; God knows how black my sins are! It is enough!” (Miller, 132). Proctor believes that his spoken confession will be enough of a confession in the eyes of the town and does not want the proof to be shown to the public. When his plea to have his confession kept hidden does not go his way, Proctor further explains why he believes the town will accept a vocal pleas when he exclaims, “Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lied and signed 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” (Miller, 133). Proctor exemplifies his view of legacy versus death through these quotes as he admits to lying in his confession to keep his name and reputation as flawless as possible, even if it means it leads to his conviction and death sentence by the sunrise. Proctor takes action to destroy the written statement that was just made by tearing his confession in half forcing Danforth to send him to his death. With this, it is evident that Proctor prioritizes his self-image and how others view him more than himself and his children who will become orphaned from the decision to not lie in his statement. In Proctor’s defense, he shows the truth to be the most important, however, his truth can be seen as a selfish act in the long run.

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Abigail Williams is one of the two first women to accuse others of witchcraft, after being caught for committing witchcraft herself. After her affair with John Proctor, she had fallen in love with him, however, because of his wife their relationship could never be. She decided to take matters into her own hands by performing a ritual in the woods with other females to cast a spell on Elizabeth Proctor. This led her cousin Betty to become ill and their secrets of witchcraft to be revealed. After seeing how forgiving Reverend Hale was to their maid, Tituba, after she had confessed, Abigail thought it is smart to do that as well. To save herself she confessed her sins in the lord’s name, she said, “I want the light of God, I want the sweet love of Jesus! I danced for the Devil; I saw him; I wrote in his book; I go back to Jesus; I kiss His hand” (Miller, 45). She did not stop there, she decided to continue by calling out other girls whom she said she saw fraternizing with the Devil, when in fact she never did. She continued to say, “I saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw Goody Osburn with the Devil! I saw Bridget Bishop with the Devil” (Miller, 45). These were only three out of the tens of town people she had ‘seen with the Devil’. Abigail was smart with her lies, she ensured that every lie she told would be one step closer to keeping a perfect reputation. Her skill to lie is so amazing that when others try to out her for her compulsive lying, it would turn around to work in her favor convicting the other person. She shows the audience her true egotistical nature with every act she commits, she forcefully wants to be seen as good in the town and will not allow any man or woman to ‘black’ her name. In Act four when Abigail was close to being seen as the lying fraud that she is, she pretends to see the Devil, and because only her and the other girls can see Him they make it extremely dramatic saying she sees the Devil with John Proctor. This leads Proctor to lie and say that he is working with the Devil resulting in him being taken to the cellars, this gives Abigail enough time to flee the town before her reputation can be tarnished anymore. To this day the whereabouts of Abigail Williams is unknown.

Reverend Parris, Abigail’s uncle, is an egotistical man who shows his selfish characteristics throughout the entire play. In the first act Betty, his daughter was ill and because he is the town’s Reverend he was more focused on ensuring that his daughter’s sickness was not being broadcasted as witchcraft. This was to ensure that the town would continuously follow him without believing he allowed sorcery under his roof. While Mr. and Mrs. Putman accused Betty of witchcraft, he quickly said, “I pray you, leap not to witchcraft. I know that you–you least of all, Thomas would ever wish so disastrous a charge laid upon me. We cannot leap to witchcraft. They will howl me out of Salem for such corruption in my house” (Miller, 13). It is evident that rather then caring if his daughter will wake up or not, he prefers to ensure his position in the town. He continuously acts in such selfish ways throughout the play, his actions, and words were all according to what he believes will make him look good to the town. In act four he continues to care for others for the sole purpose of helping himself out. The night before Proctor, Rebecca and others are set to hang, Parris pleads with the judge to not sentence them to death, however, he does this for himself as the town is mad at him for the soon to be deaths and want to see him dead instead. To Danforth, he fearfully says, “Tonight, when I open my door to leave my house–a dagger clattered to the ground. You cannot hang this sort. There is danger for me. I dare not step outside at night” (Miller, 119). If Parris was not being threatened he would ironically not have cared about the deaths as much as he is shown to care. He would have allowed innocent people to suffer as long as he survives and is able to continue to have a high status in his town. From start to finish, Parris’s selfishness and lack of empathy for others is shown as a prominent factor in who he is.

The characters in this play all present a different aspect to the thematic topics of pride and the importance of a person’s reputation. John, Abigail, and Parris present it in the most obvious egotistical ways through most if not all of the play. John Proctor represents it through his self battle between whether his dignity or life was of higher importance to him. Abigail Williams exemplifies it through her need to be seen with a good name in her town, doing all that she could to tarnish others in hopes of bringing more respect and admiration for her name. While Reverend Parris shows it through his prideful choices in words, and actions to ensure his form of status in Salam. Their views on how important a superior reputation is to them is what led them to create horrible situations for themselves and others, in some way tarnishing their reputation in the town on a larger scale.

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Preserving One’s Reputation In The Crucible. (2022, February 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 7, 2023, from
“Preserving One’s Reputation In The Crucible.” Edubirdie, 18 Feb. 2022,
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Preserving One’s Reputation In The Crucible [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 18 [cited 2023 Feb 7]. Available from:
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