Written by Arthur Miller in 1953, The Crucible is one of the most well-known plays in American history. The author depicts a series of dreadful and scary witch-hunts and trials in Salem, Massachusetts during the seventeenth century, in which numerous innocent people were ruthlessly prosecuted. The play is regarded as a literary reflection of the hysteria about communism sweeping through America in the 1950s.
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In Act IV of the play, Hale gives a speech about life and death, stating that no principle may justify the taking of a life and pleading to Elizabeth Proctor to convince John Proctor to lie and confess so that he could survive. Personally, I do not agree with Haler’s statement about life, because he is asking an individual to give up his faith and morality and betray his true heart in order to merely live. Besides, the purpose behind these words may be that he selfishly hopes to relieve his guilt by trying to save others lives.
Hale enters the play as a benevolent, naive, and candid witch-hunter who helps Parris to conduct examinations on her daughter. He comes with strong faith and resolution, which is shown in his firm statement to Parris and his family Have no fear now”we shall find this devil out if he has come among us, and I mean to crush him utterly if he has shown his face (11). Evidently, he has an unyielding belief in witchcraft at the beginning of the play and is convinced that his counsel is needed to eradicate the sin and restore peace in the town. However, his belief, unfortunately, crumbles in a short time.
After talking to John and Mary Warren, Hale starts to question himself about his judgement in witch trials and gradually realizes that he has been manipulated to help the authority to prosecute the innocents. By Act IV, he has completely lost his belief in his initial endeavor to help the people in Salem and lost faith in the court authority as well. This is when his purpose starts to go astray. At this point, he desperately wants to compensate for what he has done not only to realize redemption of other peopler’s lives but also to rescue his own soul from sinfulness. His line of for if he is taken I count myself his murderer(55) reflects that Hale is afraid to take responsibility. He then preaches to Elizabeth that life is God?s most precious gift, and that God damns a liar less than he that throws his life away for pride (55), showing that he really wishes to save peopler’s lives and make up for what he has done wrong. However, he only worths sympathy but not respect because he chooses to comply and live by betraying oner’s soul. Further, despite Haler’s good heart, he is not rather sophisticated to realize that confession alone is not enough to alter the situation and that his effort is already late. It is clear that Danforth and the theocracy would only be satisfied if the accused people would name more of their fellows, and Haler’s effort seems pathetic and useless. This aspect makes him more of a victim of the society a tragic character that struggles to minimize his sin and guilt.
In conclusion, Haler’s claim that nothing may suppress the value of life seems weak and unconvincing from my perspective. As a guileless good-hearted witch-hunter who is used by the theocracy to prosecute innocent people, he is broken and hopeless in the end, trying to realize salvation of others and himself no matter what the price is. This is why he tries so hard to convince innocent people to lie and confess so as to save their lives. This statement is what he uses to justify his self-interest; therefore I do not agree with it.
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