The Crucible: John Hale Essay

1678 words - 7 pages

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Character Progression and Development of Reverend John Hale in The Crucible

The character of Reverend Hale, in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, experiences a profound, dramatic and transformative personal evolution from when he comes to Salem in Act One through the climax in the third act. In the final act, in this progression, his identity by profession is challenged when he is confronted with the realization of an unjust, immoral community, and he responds with integrity and moral truth by abandoning his assigned mission of “witch hunter” in order to truly save others. When Reverend Hale first comes onto the scene, he is a pious and ...view middle of the document...

Reverend Hale's self-definition at the beginning of the play is that of a religious young minister who has devoted his life to identifying witches and saving their souls in the name of God. He is so committed to his objective that he is naïve to the idea that an alternative could challenge his principles and faith. He has a reputation of prosecuting others for witchcraft, and is seen as an expert in his knowledge and relied upon, in times of crisis, for his confidence. Reference Hale considers himself a teacher in the subject of witchcraft, and in response to Thomas Putnam who tries to define characteristics of witchcraft early in Act I, Hale responds with authority and instruction, "No, no. Now let me instruct you. We cannot look to superstition in this. The Devil is precise; the marks of his presence are definite as stone, and I must tell you all that I shall not proceed unless you are prepared to believe me if I should find no bruise of hell upon her” (Act I 40). Hale secures the communities’ allegiance, and then moves forward toward his pledge to rid Salem of the devil. He assures the people that they should "have no fear now–we shall find him out if he has come among us, and I mean to crush him utterly if he has shown his face!”(Act I 41). Not only does this statement emphasize that the people of Salem can rely on Hale, but it also shows Hale’s desire to do right for Salem while defining his role of "witch hunter", while benefiting from the admired attention he receives from that role.
For most of Act II, Reverend Hale falls into his position and continues to investigate the people of Salem. He begins to look at the Proctors, and is suspicious of John Proctor's absence in church as if to say that both he and his family could be tied to the witchcraft in town. In the visit to their home, Elizabeth Proctor asked the young minister if she is a suspect, and confirming his belief in doing what he can for Salem, and contributing in a positive way to the court process, he responds by stating "I do not judge you. My duty is to add what I may to the godly wisdom of the court” (Act II 71). At the end of this section of the play, Hale begins to doubt, although not strongly, some of the accusations and is concerned about the number of people being imprisoned. Hale grapples with his explanation of the hysteria without knowing the true motivation that feeds it. He sticks to the idea that God is punishing the village as an explanation; but the infancy of Hale’s change and his developing sensitivity might not be clear until the court proceedings in the next act. He says to Proctor, "Think on cause, man, and let you help me to discover it. For there's your way, believe it, there is your only way, when such confusion strikes upon the world” (Act II 83).
Like the progression of the whole play, Hale leads an attitudinal change when he becomes more open about his doubts of Abigail's statements, and even more so, the fraudulence of the court. He asks...

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