A paradox is something that appears to be one way but is the opposite way. Authors often use paradoxes in their works to make them more interesting. In the play The Crucible Arthur Miller presents the audience with a paradox in so much as the character of Reverend Hale, who lives, is presented as being more tragic than the character of John Proctor, who dies.
In the beginning, Hale is held in high regard, while Proctor is not trusted or loved by his wife. Hale runs away from the court when he realizes the truth while Proctor stands up for the truth. Hale abandons his faith and all he lives for, while Proctor dies for it.
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At the beginning of the play, Reverend Hale is held in high regard by the people of Salem. He is a trusted minister of God and all respect his opinions on matters of witchcraft. Parris says; I have sent for Reverend Hale of Beverly, and Mr. Hale will surely confirm that. (9) in act one. He does not think that the children are afflicted by witches and he looks to the wisdom and guidance of Hale to confirm that. When Hale says that Betty had been bewitched no one questions or doubts him.
Everyone in the room believes him and they immediately agree with him that it is Tituba s fault that she cannot wake when he says it is. This shows the reader that he is held in high esteem and believed by all. Since Hale is liked and believed by all the people of Salem he is set up for a big fall at the end of the play. While Hale is held in high esteem by all Proctor is not. He does not even have the love or trust of his wife. This is shown in act two when they are arguing and he says;
Spare me! You forget nothing and forgive anything. Learn charity, woman. I have gone tiptoe in this house all seven months since she [Abigail] is gone. I have not moved from there to there without I think to please you, and still, an everlasting funeral marches round your heart. I cannot speak but I am doubted, every moment judge for lies, as though I come into a court when I come into this house! (54-55)
Proctor s character cannot worsen. He does not have the love or trust of his wife so he cannot worsen as the play progresses. If he cannot deteriorate he must have to improve by the end of the play.
Proctor s character starts to improve in the second act when he decides to confront the court and tell them that the girls are lying. It is the love he has for his wife that prompts him to do this. Even though he will probably be arrested and convicted as a witch he still must try to save his wife. When they take his wife he reassures her that he will save her. I will bring you home. I will bring you home soon I will fall like an ocean on that court!. Fear Nothing Elizabeth. (77-78) He knows she does not love him but he still will attempt to save her life and bring her home.
This is the point when Proctor s character begins to ascend. Proctor still doubts himself as a good person but he finds the courage within himself to challenge the court and attempt to save his wife. While Proctor challenges the court and stands up for what he believes in, Hale runs away from the court when he realizes they are wrong.
He does not stand up for the lives of the innocent Christians that are condemned to death. When Proctor convinces him that the court is a fraud he decides to run away. I denounce these proceedings, I quit this court. (120) Hale does not try to save Proctor or his wife or anyone else who has been convicted. He does not try to show Danforth that the girls are lying or tell anyone about his suspicions.
This is the beginning of Hale s downfall and his emergence as a tragic character. Hale lacks the courage to stand up for what he knows is true and by his actions condemns innocent Christians to death. He breaks his vow as a minister to help all people and two of the ten commandments, thou shalt not kill and thou shalt not bear false witness. He has also abandoned his faith s principal values of helping others. He has turned into a broken man.
Hales’s downfall is completed in act four. He returns to Salem to counsel those condemned to death to confess. He tries to get other Christians to confess to witchcraft and devil worship. He also abandons the legal system that he was so confident of in acts one and two. He says to Elizabeth Proctor; Beware, Goody Proctor-cleave to no faith when faith brings blood.
It is a mistaken law that leads you to sacrifice. (132) He tells Elizabeth to renounce her faith and confess to witchcraft. He has completely abandoned his faith and has renounced all that Christianity teaches.
He now councils others to do the same. He cannot, however, find the courage to stand up to Danforth and tell him the court is a fraud and the girls are lying. This is the completion of his downfall. Everything that he believes in he has cast aside and destroyed because he cannot find the courage to point out a lie. Unlike Hale, Proctor had the courage to point out the lie. He was convicted of witchcraft because he would not stand for the lie and choose to help those who were already convicted.
He is about to give Danforth his confession when he realizes that he is good and that his wife does love him. He chooses to die before giving up his faith as Hale has.
I can. And there s your first marvel, that I can. You have made your magic now, for now, I do think I see some shred of goodness in John Proctor. Not white enough to weave a banner with, but white enough to keep it from such dogs. Elizabeth, in a burst of terror, rushes to him and weeps against his hand. Give them no tear! Tears pleasure them! Show honor now, show a stony heart, and sink them with it.(144)
He realizes that he is a good man and his wife thinks the same. He decides that he will not give up his name to a lie that Danforth wants from him. Even though Proctor dies in the end he has risen as high as a man can. His wife loves him and he has the courage to stand up for what he believes in.
In the beginning Hale is well-liked, Proctor is not. Hale runs away from the truth, Proctor does not. Hale abandons all he believes in, Proctor does not. The play is a paradox in which Proctor appears more tragic but in fact, Hale is the more tragic of the two. This play demonstrates that tragedy may not always be synonymous with death. Tragedy can be paradoxically synonymous with life.
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