Imagine yourself placed under pressure. Can you hold on to your morals and beliefs? Will you expose your true self when you cannot control your stress? The term crucible can either be a metallic container used for heating substances in high temperature or a severe test or trial. Metaphorically, Judge Danforth applies both definitions in his quote. He informs that the authorities will unmask anyone who tries to hide the truth. The Crucible, a play written by Arthur Miller, takes place in Salem, Massachusetts around 1692. Salem is divided into Salem Village and Salem Town, where people living in the village tend to accuse those in town of witchery. This witch hysteria in Salem is a cause of turmoil to the people since they are tested under pressure. Because of trials, their reputations are at stake. The Salem society centralizes their lives in reputations and personal interests, such as Reverend Parris, and seeking vengeance on those they are jealous of, like Abigail Williams and the Putnam’s. Out of those who are victims of this mass hysteria, John Proctor and Rebecca Nurse are the most prominent ones. John Proctor, “a farmer in his middle thirties,” is the protagonist of this play (Miller 175). He is portrayed as a man who dislikes hypocrisy, yet struggles in the play because he is one himself. In other words, he feels guilty for hiding the fact that he has committed adultery with Abigail. Rebecca Nurse, a minor character around her seventies, is the wife of Francis Nurse and midwife to many families in the village. Both Proctor and Rebecca share similar characteristics of integrity, yet, despite having similar morals, both have significantly opposite personalities and different reasons for sacrificing themselves.
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John Proctor and Rebecca Nurse are characters of integrity, who rather be hanged than confess a crime they never committed. Under the pressure of being accused of witchcraft, both demonstrates integrity through their moral principles and beliefs. Throughout the play, Proctor conveys integrity. For example, he confesses to Elizabeth his affair with Abigail, speaks out about his dislike for how Parris corrupts the church, and confesses his crime of adultery. Moreover, when Danforth interrogates Proctor about the other participants in witchery, Proctor says that he speaks of his own sins and not others (Miller 239). This proves that Proctor is a good man and citizen who does not intend to hurt anyone. Proctor believes in no such thing as witchcraft and he is able to stay with his own beliefs regardless of the consequences. Likewise, Rebecca, pure, pious and truthful, tries to ameliorate the situation over Ruth by comforting Ann Putman. She says that Ruth will eventually wake up because she has witnessed all sorts of children going through “their silly seasons” (Miller 179). It did not matter for Rebecca to risk her life by expressing her real thoughts to Goody Proctor, knowing that she envied her. Rebecca proves righteousness by taking responsibility for her own actions, rather than blaming others. We see this when she says, “There is a prodigious danger in the seeking of loose spirits. I fear it. I fear it. Let us rather blame ourselves and -” (Miller 180). In addition, she portrays purity and goodness when she tries to help people who are struggling, and similarly, she has no intention to hurt anyone, like Proctor. Due to Goody Putman’s jealousy, she accuses Rebecca for “the supernatural murder” of her babies (Miller 201). Unlike Rebecca, Mrs. Putman is desperate to accuse others of witchcraft in order to relieve the guilt she has for her babies’ deaths. Therefore, Rebecca, scapegoat of Mrs. Putman, is sent to jail. Yet, during her three months in jail, she has never spoken a word (Miller 231). This reveals how she refuses to compromise her honesty by not lying. In this way, not only does she show integrity, but she also sticks to her principles. Although they are both characters of integrity, Rebecca’s integrity never wavers; she is steadfast whereas Proctor is less sure of himself because he doubts whether he should give up his name and confess a lie.
A key difference between Proctor and Rebecca is that while Proctor is a dynamic character, Rebecca is a static character. Proctor changes during the play and learns through events and experiences. At the beginning of the play, Proctor does not want to get involved in the witch-hunts because he is scared to expose the fact that he had an affair with Abigail and ruin his public reputation. But when Elizabeth is arrested, he becomes fired up. He changes from a quiet man to one who stands up with courage and speaks up against what he believes is the right thing. Unfortunately, when he confesses his sin to save his wife, it does not work out. At the end of Act IV, Proctor exclaims to Danforth, “How can I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!” (Miller 240). This shows that he still cares about having his name clean and protected because he believes that a human being is granted with only one name in their lifetime. At first, he decides to take the easy way out and confess a lie. Yet, when Proctor realizes that he has to make up his mind to choose either his name or his life, he decides that he rather dies with an honorable name than to live in a tainted one (Miller 240). Proctor considers his name more significantly than his life because he did not want Danforth to use his name to get other people to confess, so he rather die than have his name blacken. Hence, he chooses to sacrifice himself honorably leaving no regrets and save Elizabeth from the chaos. Rebecca, however, stays the same throughout the entire play. Since Rebecca is a role model in the town of Salem, many people respect her for that reason. She never doubts her beliefs as well as people in Salem. In spite of this, when Proctor confesses a lie in front of her, he feels ashamed of himself since he knows deep inside him that he is doing the wrong thing. Rebecca symbolizes the Christ figure, someone who portrays courage and faith. She is always straightforward towards everyone no matter what situation she is in. For instance, when she is questioned by the authorities, she spoke no lies and only the truth.
The difference between Proctor and Rebecca is that as Proctor’s personality, he is impulsive, bad-tempered, and violent at times, yet Rebecca is rational and passive. An act of impulsiveness from Proctor is shown when Cheever comes with a warrant to arrest Elizabeth, and Proctor tears it without thinking the consequences. Beside this, in Act I, when Abigail tries to seduce Proctor, he violently tells her, “do you look for wippin’?” (Miller 177). Then in Act II, when Elizabeth starts to ask why he has been alone with Abigail, he angrily tells her, “No more! I should have roared you down when first you told me your suspicionâ€¦let you look sometimes for the goodness in me, and judge me not” (Miller 194). Furthermore, in Act III, when Proctor could not tolerate Abigail’s lies, he “leaps at Abigail and, grabbing her by the hair, pulls her to her feet” (Miller 219). Finally, in Act IV, he defies the authorities and admits that what he has confessed is a lie and he wants to do the right thing by dying. Although Proctor did not want to die soon and be able to see his sons grow up, he does not want to live under a lie. On the contrary to Proctor’s personality, Rebecca is a stereotype of all good that exists; the compassion she has within her and the love for truth that keeps her strong. Since Rebecca has already lived long, she is well-experienced and flawless throughout the play. She thinks over a situation thoughtfully and guides people through a logical way of thinking. Because she has lived long and maintained her good reputation, it did not matter for her whether she is going to die. She is satisfied with her life for having eleven children and being a grandmother for twenty-six times (Miller 179). Rebecca tells Proctor when they are to be hanged, “Let you fear nothing! Another judgment waits us all!” (Miller 240). Through this quote, it depicts the truth that never fades away inside her, thus, she spreads her strength to encourage and motivate Proctor to make the right choice as her, tell the truth, and become the role model for the Salem society.
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In The Crucible, John Proctor and Rebecca Nurse are essential characters because they both represent the voice of reason. Both characters demonstrate integrity and are willing to die than to confess to witchcraft. Even though Proctor does not want to get involved in the trials, he does so at last because of Elizabeth. He becomes tired of Abigail’s lies and decides to make his move and fight for what he thought is right. However, both are different in how Proctor changes and Rebecca does not, and likewise, both have different personalities. Proctor is spontaneous and aggressive, and he does not think through things as clear as Rebecca does. Unlike Proctor, Rebecca is passive and compassionate. Moreover, she has lived longer and she has learned technically everything she needed in life. Yet, Proctor has not, which is why Miller intentionally makes Proctor “a sinner who is going against his own vision of decent conducts” (Miller 175). The reason behind this is because Miller wants the reader to understand how guilt can consume one’s life and change one person internally. Miller shows us how people would react under certain circumstances, like how Proctor reacts when Danforth insistently wants to hang up his signed confession on the church door; it is then that Proctor takes back his words. In The Crucible, the witch-hunt is an allegory of what Miller describes the communist’s trials. Miller justifies that there is no justice in the society, unless that person chooses to fight based on what they think is right. Everyone commits mistakes, but not all agree to correct them. The ones who chooses to correct their errors, demonstrates characters of integrity and courageousness, like both John Proctor and Rebecca Nurse.
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