How do the characters' beliefs in fate affect their attitudes and decisions in The Crucible?

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

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The concept of "fate" that is seen in Miller's work is not automatically like the Greek notion.  Rather, it is a condition that seems to suggest that human nature is doomed to a particular state of being.  This element of fate that is in the drama is one that is used by different characters for different ends.  For example, the religious contingent in Salem, most noticeably Parris, views fate in the form of predestination.  This constructs human nature as one of sin, and one in which human nature is sinful.  It is for this reason that Parris is shocked at the girls dancing in the woods.  It is for this reason that he is able to condemn Proctor in the court of public opinion for his scant attendance at church.  In Hale, the belief in the idea of fate is one of a higher power that drives all being.  In the first part of the play, this is the "calling" that he responds to in driving the witches and Satan out of Salem.  In the end of the play, it is the calling to save life at all costs. Through both, one sees how fate plays a role in his actions.  For Proctor, "fate" is seen as being able to uphold a transcendent notion of "his name."  This is something that is not fully understood until the end of the play.  He had been operating in a context where Proctor lacked a full and clear understanding of fate.  Rather, it is in the end when Proctor gains an understanding of the power of fate or in something more transcendent, what Elizabeth would term as "his goodness."


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