Discuss how Miller's The Crucible shows the very worst as well the very best in humanity.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that power in Miller's work is that the reader is left stunted between witnessing the best and worst in human beings.  One is not sure where to go, other than to know that human beings can be capable of "breaking charity" between human beings and restoring it.  Certainly, the worst of all human connection can be seen in the actions of Abigail and the girls.  The idea of manufacturing accusations against targeted people is one of the worst representations of "mean girls" imaginable.  At the same time, Miller is able to bring out a sense of the pathetic in Abigail.  From the time she witnessed her parents being murdered as a child, to the fact that Parris really shows little, if any, guidance and affection towards her, to the ending of her running away to Boston and rumored to have become a prostitute.  Abigail represents the worst in humanity.  The girls that follow her such as Mercy Lewis also represent this as they are the proverbial "sidekick" to Abigail's "Queen Bee."  I would say that the Putnam's manipulation of the situation in order to consolidate his own wealth and Danforth's steadfast refusal to see that the court he presides over is guilty of murder can also embody the moments where the worst in humanity is seen.  The town's lack of faith, lack of trust, and lack of connection to one another is an instance where the worst in human beings is on display for all to see.  The shackles and chains that take Elizabeth away from her husband are symbolic of the constraints on the goodness in the town's goodness towards one another.

In this abyss of moral depravity lies some specks of human redemption, as well.  Goody Nurse would be one such specimen.  She never relents in his beliefs, standing on a threshold that Proctor would say he himself is not "worth the dust on the feet" of people like her.  Goody Nurse represents the very best of humanity in how she cares and even until the end, does not waver in her commitment of social justice and values that breed charity as opposed to "breaking it."  When Giles Corey utters "More weight" at his pressing, it is a moment that shows how human beings can transcend their condition, and become symbols for all that is good and right in their refusal to succumb to the temptation of being less than what they can be.  Francis Nurse's advocacy  for his wife is poignant and touching, reflecting how human beings show care for the ones they love at the moments when it is needed the most.  I would also say that Proctor does represent the very best in humanity at the end.  The fact that he cares for his name, wishing to teach his boys to "walk like men," is something that is an example for all to absorb.  In a world that lacks moral order and structure, Proctor starts this process towards redemption.  It isn't much, not enough to "weave a banner with," but it is a start. For this, Elizabeth's words of not "wanting to take" his goodness is a powerful statement for both Salem and all of us.