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In Act 2, Reverend Hale says "...If Rebecca Nurse be tainted,then nothing's left to...

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rockstar195699 | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted March 23, 2013 at 1:00 PM via web

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In Act 2, Reverend Hale says "...If Rebecca Nurse be tainted,then nothing's left to stop the whole green world from burning." Explain what he means 

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 23, 2013 at 1:14 PM (Answer #1)

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I think that Hale's meaning is quite poignant.  It is one of the first moments in which the audience sees Hale as offering some small level of dissent against unconditional acceptance of the accusations.  Hale comes to know Rebecca Nurse as a paragon of virtue and care.  His initial introduction to the town is one in which he singles out Rebecca Nurse as the embodiment of compassion.  Hale knows this to be an absolute part of her character.

When she is accused, it is one of the first times that Hale begins to question what is transpiring in Salem.  Hale understands clearly that Rebecca Nurse's accusation reveals one of two realities. The first is that the devil's presence in Salem is far greater than his capacity to counter it if it can corrupt a woman like Rebecca Nurse.  The other is that there is something wrong with the accusations and the people making them if Rebecca Nurse can be found guilty.  

It is here where Hale begins to make a distinct change in how he views the girls' accusations.  His statement about how if Rebecca Nurse is guilty, the "whole green world" is one that is left "burning" is symbolic of this corruption.  For Hale, the accusation of Rebecca Nurse is significant because it begins to trigger a process through which the perception of purity and "green" is contrasted with a more jaded sense of "burning" and corruption.

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