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Robert Freeman, a philosopher of the modern era, was once quoted as to saying, “Character is not made in a crisis -- it is only exhibited.” As in Freeman’s case, a person’s character is an indication of his or her moral strengths in times of adversity. Character is put to the test everyday by how a person may react to various types of controversy. During volatile times, one’s personality is challenged to ultimate extremes and in time his or her true ethical qualities reveal themselves. In Arthur Miller’s 15 play, The Crucible, truth of self is noticeably tested through the words and actions of John Proctor, Abigail Williams, and Tituba. Throughout the course of the play, each character exhibits how one can conform and adapt their moral standards when put in truly compromising situations, and how hard it may be to find one’s true identity during hectic times. The limitations of the Puritan faith play an intricate part to the massive frenzy that takes place in the town of Salem, Massachusetts. The strict faith of the Puritans allowed the characters no personal liberties, and may have been the main reason that the townspeople of Salem suffered from all the insanity that was the witch trials.

Abigail Williams, John Proctor, and many others like Tituba, deal with injustices all contributed to the witchcraft hysteria. The madness poses questions for all those accused as to whether or not they should coincide with Salem’s strict Puritan society, or be true to their character, no matter how it may make them look. In colonial America, during the late sixteenth, early seventeenth-centuries, religious beliefs and self-imposed governments were just beginning to come together and were extremely unstable. People were confused as to who are what they should believe or put their trust in. This lack of faith, in essence, led the Puritans, like other religious groups, to partake in numerous uncommon practices. The Puritans were very strict and narrow-minded and infractions were dealt with in a justly manner. Dissent, misbehavior, and any other form of satanic activity was considered a callous sin, and therefore, punished with severity. Arthur Miller takes the readers back to Salem, Massachusetts to provide a glimpse back to the mass hysteria that took place during those crazy times.

“The Devil‘s loose in Salem, we must discover where he’s hiding!” (Miller 56). Abigail Williams, the young but vindictive seventeen-year old niece of Reverend Parris, is the leader of a small faction of teenage girls who caused great commotion in Salem by dancing in the night and conjuring spirits. Also, we later find out in the play that Abigail carries on an affair with John Proctor. She lusts for him throughout the play, even though he makes it blatantly clear that he wants nothing to do with her from the start of Act I. “Abby, I may think of you softly from time to time. But I will cut off my hand before I’ll ever reach for you again.” (). Despite John’s urge for a new beginning, he knows he has to be true to identity and eventually confront his flawed past. In contrast, Abigail never forgets the moments she shares with John, “You loved me, John Proctor, and whatever sin it is, you love me yet!” (). Her ignorance to the fact that John no longer seeks after her leads to great deals of disturbance and disarray in Salem.

In Act I, the hysteria begins when Abigail cries witchery on the townspeople and threatens her teenage friends to lie about the night they danced or deal with her malicious wrath. Abigail scolds, “We danced. And Tituba conjured Ruth Putnam’s dead sisters. And that is all. And mark this. Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you.” (1). The impressionable girls begin to question their consciences. They question whether to confess their sins and speak the truth, or to go along with Abigail and lie. Act I concludes with the girls, along with Abigail, shouting out the names of so-called “witches” to escape the persecutions of witchery. “I saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw Goody Osburn with the Devil! I saw Bridget Bishop with the Devil!” (45). This scene shows that the girls were choosing to set aside their moral standards in fear of what may happen to them if they stayed true to themselves.

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The characters being accused of being a witch are now put in quite a dilemma. They could either agree to the sin of witchery, compromising themselves, but in turn securing their lives, or be true to their personal beliefs and circumstantially sign away their lives. At first, when Abigail accuses Tituba of witchcraft, she remarks, “No, no, sir, I don’t truck with no Devil!” (41). As Tituba realizes the only escape is to surrender to the falsities, she confesses, “I tell him (the Devil) I don’t desire to work for him.” (4). Tituba serves as a prime example of being true to oneself, but soon she falters when she realizes the consequences of being accused of witchery. She adapts to her situation and pushes away her true self so that she may allow herself to admit to being a witch. This act in turn gives Tituba her life back, which she obviously sees as more valuable than her true identity.

The tragic hero of the play, John Proctor, veers away from the witch trials to avoid furthermore blackening his already tarnished name in the village. John wants to keep his dark secret with Abigail away from the town of Salem, but is forced to speak out when Abigail wrongfully accuses his wife, Elizabeth, of witchcraft. This is the first time in the drama, The Crucible, that John’s moral strength is distinctly tested. Cheever, a local townsman, exclaims, “I have a warrant for your wife [Elizabeth]! Abigail Williams charges her.” (6). To his dismay, Proctor is forced to go to court to defend his helpless wife and finally face his inner demons. The pivotal point of the play takes place in the courthouse when John Proctor confesses to adultery. Overtaken by emotion, Proctor stays true to himself and admits to the court, “I have known her, sir. I have known her” (10). Confessing to adultery in an attempt to save his wife is a sign that John is attempting to be true to his moral and ethical standards. Even in the bitter end, Proctor portrays genuine character, but in turn endures the “penalty” of being honest to his true identity. Elizabeth, as a devout Puritan and loyal wife, lets Proctor be at peace with himself. “He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it away from him!” (14).

Every character is challenged in one form or another throughout The Crucible with a quest to find out who they really are and how they can find the strength to be true to themselves. During the mass hysteria of witchcraft, each individual is faced with adversities that have to be overcome in order to be genuine to their true self. John Proctor, through all of the religious madness, overcomes the witchcraft hysteria and becomes a true example of exemplifying one’s true character.

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