In "The Crucible", how does Hale confuse Tituba? What is the significance of their conversation?

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favoritethings | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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Hale confuses Tituba by being kind to her.  Her owner, Reverend Parris, threatens to take her out and "whip [her] to [her] death" if she refuses to confess.  Next, Mr. Putnam shouts, "This woman must be hanged!  She must be taken and hanged!"  Tituba is a slave and she is treated horrifically, apparently used to such threats and inhumane treatment from the people of Salem.  What she is clearly not used to is kindness. 

Rather than threaten her with physical punishment, "Hale takes her hand.  She is surprised."  He tells her that he will protect her, that the community will bless her for helping them to discover the source of the evil in the town and root it out.  Hale says to Tituba, "You are selected, Tituba, you are chosen to help us cleanse our village."  Unlike Parris or Putnam, who threaten and beat her, Hale touches her gently, treats her lovingly, and tells her that she is special.  He speaks "kindly" and she is "deeply relieved."  He is hopeful that she will confess, and though she knows it is a lie, she gives him two names of women that she has supposedly seen with the Devil: it's confusing because she knows she's lying but she wants to say whatever this kind man wants because he's the only one to be kind to her.  She "rock[s] and weep[s]" as she gives him the names he is looking for.

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mrs-campbell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Hale starts off by being harsh, and demanding that she confess: "When did you compact with the devil?" When she does confess, he immediately treats her kindly, leading her along in her confession, saying that she is "God's instrument put in our hands".  It is quite a turn-around, and very confusing. 

The conversation is significant because she is the first to break down and give a detailed accusation of other women, AND it isn't until after she does that Hale treats her like an angel.  This switcharoo in treatment makes the light-bulb go off in Abby's head.  She thinks, hey, that's awesome!  I can confess and blame other people, and be treated like THAT?  I think I'll go for it!  She then breaks down and confesses, accuses some women of witchcraft, which then sets all the other girls to doing it too.  Hale's conversation with Tituba was the catalyst that started it all.

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