What is the significance does Reverend Hale's use of the phrase "I am a graduate of Harvard College" reveal his dominance within the play?

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

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On one hand, Miller uses Hale's background to lend credence to the idea that intrinsically bright and qualified individuals can be led astray.  The initial idea of Hale being a graduate from Harvard is to lend credence to why he is there.  Yet, it is already evident from the conversation between Abigail and John that the entire premise of witches in Salem is something that has been concocted.  The bringing in of a Harvard expert is something that represents how people who lack formal education, such as Abigail and the other girls, can be influential enough to persuade those who do have formal backgrounds.  For Miller, Hale is being duped like so many in Salem.  His background from Harvard cannot do much to avoid him from being inexorably pulled into the same fraud as those who lack formal education.  Interestingly enough, the characters who lack formal education like Proctor, Rebecca Nurse, and Giles Corey are the only ones who are able to see through what is happening.  Eventually, they suffer for it at the hands of "respected" judges and leaders like Hathorne and Danforth, as well as Parris, and even Hale.  In this, Hale's invocation and declaration of hailing from Harvard is seen with a sense of both sadness and fear that a formal education did little in educating him as to what is really happening in Salem.


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