Hypocrisy In The Crucible

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Part of what makes Miller’s work so powerful is that it brings out the hypocrisy that is present in the time period of Salem.  At the same time, the reader cannot help but to take the hypocrisy that Miller has presented in Salem and apply it to their own contexts, forcing a true and reflective analysis of hypocrisy to take place.  We can see this from the opening scene, where Parris “is concerned” about what happened in the woods with the girls.  He reveals that his only motivation is for his own position and not out of any real sense of parental concern or concern for his flock as a pastor.  The Putnams are a walking example of hypocrisy, as Ann Putnam speaks to her fear of witches, but really is nursing anger out of her miscarriages, a source of envy of Rebecca Nurse’s bounty of children.  Her husband is not much better.  As Giles Corey unsuccessfully brings to the court’s attention, Thomas Putnam is not concerned with finding witches, but rather seeks to only take the land of the accused and sell it at a higher price.  One could make the argument that the judges, Hathorne and Danforth, are not really concerned with the pursuit of justice, but rather in “getting names’ and making a name for themselves.  In the midst of this would be the greatest example of hypocrisy in Abigail Williams.  As she confesses to John Proctor early on in the play, Abigail has no interest in finding witches.  She simply needed to invent an excuse for the girls’ behavior in the woods that fateful night.  In constructing this story, she also recognizes that she can seize the man she has coveted, John Proctor.  Abigail is the embodiment of hypocrisy in that she truly speaks one set of truths designed to get what she wants, what she sees as another and more attainable realm of truth.  Abigail’s hypocrisy really gains a new level when Miller constructs a scene where she and John meet the night before the trial, and she tells John that she wants to pursue and punish “those guilty of hypocrisy.”  Abigail is the strongest example of hypocrisy in the drama.

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