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In The Crucible Arthur Miller presents several types of characters who are able to fit into three stereotypical categories, victims, villains and heroes. These characters and groups are easily identified through the actions of the play itself and the author notes included which provide information on certain characters giving insight into their life. Such strategies allow Miller to develop characters into the stereotypical roles.
Firstly, the entire community of Salem, Massachusetts is the victim of Abigail’s mind games. She is the leader of the small group of girls who cause the trouble. She is instantly perceived as a “bad girl” to the reader and manipulates the local community and outsider’s strong spiritual beliefs by accusing people of witchcraft which is heavily related to the Devil. Even though the audience knows she is a “Villain”, other characters like Reverend John Hale and Judge Hathorne perceive her as a poor innocent child who has been influenced by “evil” people who conspire with the Devil. With Salem being a Theocracy at the time, the church ran the t wn and witchcraft was comparable to murder.
Abigail’s main motives for causing trouble were to make the other girls and herself seem innocent when they had been ‘naughty’. Another more personal motive was to win back her beloved Proctor, by having his current wife Elizabeth hung and finally having her revenge on all those who treated her badly in the past punished. She believes she has been treated badly in the past because as a small girl she saw her parents killed by native Indians and other women in the community talk about her as if she is a harlot.
A victim of Abigail’s is John Proctor, who also fits into the role of hero. Proctor as the victim has to stand back and watch his poor wife arrested when Abigail has accused her of trying to murder her with a needle in a poppet. At this point of time in the play Proctor knows Abigail is trying to deceive the entire community of Salem. When Proctor pressures Mary Warren, a girl who was in on the charade and his family’s live in servant, to telling the entire court of their lies, Abigail black mails her into re-joining the group using scare tactics.
John Proctor as the hero is an interesting character. Even though he has broken his wedding vowels and one of the Ten Commandments he is still seen as one of the “heroes” of the play. Proctor is considered a hero as he tried to save his loyal wife Elizabeth’s life by confessing to the court of Abigails and his affair. When Elizabeth is questioned she denies the affair, and he is accused of sending his sprit upon Mary Warren, to hurt her and is arrested.
If the affair was to of become public knowledge, the Proctor family reputation would be considered mud and all respect the family held within the community would be lost. John Proctor in particular had a reputation within the community for being an honest and fair man.
Another reason why Proctor is considered a hero in The Crucible is because when many members of the community had been arrested with suspicion of witchcraft, the majority confessed to save their own lives. Yet John Proctor and Rebecca Nurse, who don’t confess and proclaim their innocence, are hung. John Proctor makes a stance in the final Act of the play when Reverend Hale and Reverend Parris try and convince him to save himself by confessing to conspiring with the Devil. After confessing and signing the confession for court records, Danforth wants to nail Proctor’s confession to the church doors for the whole community of Salem to see. He believes Proctor has great power within the community, and it will show the power of the court. Proctor refuses for the confession to been seen in public. As he believes ‘it is my name! Because u cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign 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 you my soul; leave me my name”. He also does not want to bring shame upon his sons in the future. He tears the confession to shreds in front of Rebecca Nurse and they die together with dignity.
Giles Corey is also seen in two stereotypical roles, a villain and a hero. He tells Hale his wife reads books during the night keeping him from sleep and he is unable to pray. This is instantly thought to be witchcraft and she is arrested, yet there was no evidence to prove she was practising witchcraft at all. Corey was told by someone Thomas and Ann Putnam are asking their daughter to accuse certain people to acquire their land. He believes this to be solid evidence and wants it to be used in court. When asked to give the name, he is unable because he has promised not to mention the persons name to save their life. He is arrested and repeatedly tortured to confess the name. A form of torture used was placing weighty stones upon his chest. He consequently dies and his last words said are “more weight”. For dying keeping a promise to a friend, he is seen as a hero.
There are many other characters that can be listed in the area of victims, heroes and villains. Yet the three characters talked about all represent one or two of the stereotypical characters who Miller presented with such influence within the play they are carved into the readers mind. There many more heroic and victim characters, yet the main villain is certainly Abigail.
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