Explain the importance of confession in Act IV of The Crucible.

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

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The role of confession is vitally important in Act IV.  Danforth and Hathorne both covet the idea of confession because it will help bring credence to their own cause and lend credibility to their trials.  At this point in the drama, the uprising in Andover as well as the questioning of the trials in Salem have led to a public criticizing of the trials.  A confession is seen at the start of the Act as a way to bring credibility and credence to their trials.  For Parris, a confession might lead to a form of validation and a sense of respect from the citizenry that has begun to question and become openly hostile towards his leadership.  For Hale, a confession, albeit a false one, leads to a sense of redemption in the acknowledgement of one's own life as a gift from the divine.  At the same time, a confession would help to alleviate his own guilt for his participation in the trials that imprisoned innocent individuals.  For all of these individuals, a confession is seen as a temporal validation, something that is in contextual and contingent surroundings.  Proctor sees a confession in a different light.  For him, to confess is to stand for something universal and transcendent in a contingent setting.  In confessing to what he has done in "his name," it is a reminder that the only way to respond to the numbing and controlling elements of the contingent is to stand for the universal with commitment and a sense of zeal within it.


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