The Crucible: Danforth And Hale
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Arthur Millers The Crucible possesses many examples of interesting character development. A character who one initially finds to be worthy of mercy or pity can easily become the last person deserving of sympathy. This relationship is not only formed between the reader and the characters, but between the characters and the scenario of the story itself. The victim may become the accuser, or the scholar may become the humanitarian. This manner of characterization is best shown in the relationship between Reverend John Hale and Deputy Governor Danforth. Each is objectified to the events in Salem as they come into the situation with no attachments to any of the other characters and are unfamiliar with any of their mannerisms or personalities. Hale is a well-read minister who relies upon his books. Danforth is a reputable judge who relies on consistent input and prodding. Both of these men enter the trials with very similar goals. The places they stand at the finish, however, could not be more different. This is due to the personal relationships and opinions Hale develops concerning Salem. Reverend Hale is a dynamic character who learns his role as a minister while Judge Danforth is a constant force who voices others opinions through his authority.
As Reverend John Hale is not a resident of Salem, he approaches the accusations and rumors without any prior opinion. Hale is introduced as extremely arrogant and proud with his goal being “light, goodness and its preservation”(Miller 34). This phrasing strengthens his role as a man of God, but this is not actually displayed in his personality until later. He is very book smart and this leads to some signs of immaturity. This is shown in Act I when Parris questions why the devil would come to Salem. “Why would he [the devil] choose this house to strike?”(39) In response Hale says, “It is the best the Devil wants, and who is better than the minister?”(39) This shows he enjoys the position better than he does its purpose. He is also very eager.
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Upon meeting Tituba, he is relentless in his questions. He also shares the same excitement with Parris as the girls begin to reveal the false names. Hale is an extremely lively and youthful person who takes great pride in his position and his knowledge.
Reverend Hale makes many changes very quickly. This is very easy for him to do as he is quite juvenile and his mind is easily swayed due to his lack of opinion. The important thing that does not change about him is his love for God and his desire to do what is right. The first noticeable difference is the loss of arrogance in his mannerisms upon his appearance in Act II. He is very reserved now and is described as having “a quality of deference, even of guilt, about his manner”(59). Hale is very aware of the numerous amounts of people who are called potential witches. As a result of these accusations, he is able to clearly see the direction that the trials would be taking, but “in my ignorance I find it hard to draw a clear opinion of them that come accused before the court”(60). His uncertainty is a theme throughout the rest of the act. A most important change occurs at the end of Act III. It is clear that throughout the course of the trial, Hale has been building up deep resentments and personal anguish. Hale’s doubts and frustrations are best shown when he says, “I have this morning signed away the life of Rebecca Nurse, Your Honor. I’ll not conceal it, my hand shakes yet as with a wound!”(92) Although this does not prove the finality of Hales discontent with the court, it proves he has a firm opinion of the events and is very near the end of his patience. Hale finally turns away from the court upon the accusation of John Proctor by Mary Warren. He is outraged at Danforths trust in the girls. In doing this, Hale has also shirked in his duties as a minister and a man of God. He quickly realizes his mistake and reenters the court with a very grave and cynical position. There is also a great deal of guilt on his part. This was implied in Act II, but is fully exposed in Act VI. Danforth initially is exited upon Hales return, but soon after, upon further thought, questions Hales reasoning. Hale says, “I come to do the devils work. His sarcasm collapses. There is blood on my head! Can you not see the blood on my head!!”(121) His guilt has reached a point where he simply loses all inhibitions and does whatever he can to protect Proctor. Hale is the one who attempts to make Danforth sufficient with the verbal confession. When Proctor denies all questions concerning the innocence of Rebecca Nurse and Martha Corey, it is believed that Hale is unable to finish his work. Hale makes a petition to Proctor. “Man you will hang! You cannot!”(133) Proctors reply is,“ I can. And there’s your first marvel. You have made your magic now, for now I think I do see some shread of goodness in John Proctor”(133). This statement redeems Hale, although he does not know it. Hale has inadvertently sent John Proctor to God. This is the full realization of Hales holy work.
Deputy Governor Danforth is a very stern and imposing person. Like Hale, he is very proud of his position. He does not overtly allow anything to interfere with his work or cause. He relies, though, upon outside influence and persuasion to make decisions. This includes the many girls who are his sources for accusations and information. He is adaptable and when approached correctly, can be easily convinced. These traits may be seen as signs of gullibility, immaturity, and the cause for the haste with which he takes to finish the trials. An important aspect of Danforth’s character is a type of immaturity not unlike that of Reverend Hale’s. This is brought forth in his discussion with Francis Nurse concerning the girls’ falsehood. He begins to wield his position to gain respect from Francis and even make an example of him. This haughty attitude is best shown in the series of questions directed towards Francis Nurse:
Danforth: Do you know who I am, Mr. nurse?
Francis: I surely do, sir, and I think you must be a wise judge to be what you are.
Danforth: And do you know that near four hundred are in the jails…upon my signature? And seventy-two condemned to hang by that signature?
Francis: Excellency, I never thought to say it to such a weighty judge, but you are deceived. (80-81)
Although Francis is not subdued, it is made very clear how Danforth works. It is implied that Danforth has dug in so deep, that to renounce his judgements would destroy his reputation. There is also the possibility that if Francis could present a convincing argument, Danforth might have been influenced to take sides against the girls. Danforth does finally allow John Proctor to be pardoned upon his confession, and the betrayal of his friends. When Proctor does confess, he refuses a written confession. This threatens Danforths reputation on a very peculiar level. Danforth wishes to be known as the one who got the confession out of John Proctor. “Because it is my name! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!”(133). This is similar to Hales denial of the court. Each directly involved Danforth and his deep roots in the girls. With Proctor dying with his integrity, Hale and Proctor are the only true winners while Danforth keeps his superficial reputation.
When compared to Danforth, Hale is seen as a wonderful and truly honorable character while Danforth, a picture of justice, is truly a villain. Danforth sticks to tradition by the book while Hale resorts to unorthodox ways to please his lord and gain internal peace. Danforth and Hale begin on nearly identical planes of existence. Hale falls away to find himself while Danforth gets lost in what he believes to be his true identity. In the end, each finds a proper place, one noble and upright, the other forged in the blood of the condemned.
Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. New York:
Penguin Books, 2003.
Summary: Essay shows how the character Danforth is responsible for the tragedy in the novel "The Crucible" by Arthur Miller.
Danforth was Deputy Governor and a senior judge in The Crucible's trials. Honest and meticulous, at least in his own mind, Danforth was convinced that he was doing right in rooting out witchcraft. He was in his late sixties. He wasn't liked by all of the villagers, although he was respected by some...
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