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One of the main themes in The Crucible is Reputation. With so many of the townspeople yelling accusations of witchcraft and pointing fingers, a person's reputation became a thing of utmost importance because it was who you were and how you were viewed, specifically as a good or bad person. However, as the trials went on, reputation no longer mattered to the courts as even the "best" and most upright citizens were brought in on accusations, tried, and hanged. One such example is Rebecca Nurse. John Proctor, ironically, has a "bad" reputation because he does not go to church regularly, he does not get along with Reverend Parris, the town's spiritual leader, and he has had an affair. However, in the end he recognizes that reputation, though not important in the court's eyes, is still a representation of who you are and how you and those important to you view you. He emphasizes this when he refuses to sign the false confession and yells out "I have given you my soul. Leave me my name!" (Miller, Act 3).
Another theme is that of revenge. This is seen in Abigail Williams more than any other character because it is vengeance on Goody Proctor that leads her to accuse Goody Proctor. Goody, or Elizabeth, Proctor threw Abigail out of her home seven months prior when she discovered the affair between John and Abigail. Abigail refers to her as a "cold, sniveling woman" in Act One. She also threatens revenge on the other girls if they should say anything about the dancing and witchcraft that occurred in the woods the night before in Act One when she says "if any of you should breathe a word, I will come to you in the dark of some terrible night with a pointy reckoning".
Hysteria is a theme throughout the play along with its affects on the town. When we begin the play, the town shows some previous fractures, but as the Nurses tell us there is hope that they town will have a peaceful year. As the witch trials continue, the town abandons all reason and erupts into hysteria.
In Act II Mary Warren speaks to the Proctors about the events occurring in town. She and the other girls have begun to call other women in the town out for their witchcraft ways. More importantly, she shows that she no longer focuses on logical reasons, but has given into the hysteria and because of it, believes what she is doing is right and good.
I never knew it before. I never knew any of it before. .... I hear a voice, a screaming voice, and it were my voice- and all at once I remember everything she done to me!
One theme of this play is the power of appearances and how this can lead to a shaky foundation for any kind of authority, especially moral authority.
Danforth, conciliatory: You misunderstand, sir; I cannot pardon these when twelve are already hanged for the same crime. It is not just.
Here, the fraud has been practically exposed but the punishments assigned to those who have yet to hang will not be revoked because the moral authority of the court would be severly compromised. Justice is secondary to saving face.
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