In The Crucible, how does Hale persuade Tituba to confess? How is his approach different from the others'?

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andrewnightingale eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For us to understand and appreciate Reverend Hale's methods, we need to know something of his background and the status he enjoys. In his notes, Arthur Miller tells us:

Mr. Hale is nearing forty, a tight-skinned, eager-eyed intellectual. This is a beloved errand for him; on being called here to ascertain witchcraft he felt the pride of the specialist whose unique knowledge has at last been publicly called for.  Like almost all men of learning, he spent a good deal of his time pondering the invisible world, especially since he had himself encountered a witch in his parish not long before ...

Coming into Salem now, Reverend Hale conceives of himself much as a young doctor on his first call. His painfully acquired armory of symptoms, catchwords, and diagnostic procedures are now to be put to use at last... His goal is light, goodness and its preservation, and he knows the exaltation of the blessed whose intelligence, sharpened by minute examinations of enormous tracts, is finally called upon to face what may be a bloody fight with the Fiend himself. 

Reverend Hale approach is therefore quite scientific and not based on any predetermined judgment at all. He is objective in his approach and is not driven by any personal agenda. It can thus be truthfully said that he is intent on establishing the truth, as can be gauged from his remark that,

We cannot look to superstition in this. The Devil is precise; the marks of his presence are definite as stone, and I must tell you all that I shall not proceed unless you are prepared to believe me if I should find no bruise of hell upon her.

These words clearly define the purpose of his visit. he is not blatantly going to seek evidence for the devil only, but will be open-minded enough in his investigation to accept that Satan is not around, if the evidence clearly points thereto.

When he starts questioning Betty, she does not respond, not even when he declares a blessing over her. It is only when he confronts Abigail after Reverend Parris points to her and mentions that he saw them dancing in the forest, that he makes some progress . Once Reverend Hale confronts her, Abigail declares her innocence and blames Tituba.

Tituba is then brought before him and denies everything. Reverend Hale employs a direct-questioning technique, but Tituba initially does not falter, stating that she never 'trucked' with the devil.

Hale: Woman, have you enlisted these children for the Devil? Tituba: No, no, sir, I don't truck with no Devil!

Reverend Hale then adopts a more demanding and accusatory tone:

Why can she not wake? Are you silencing this child?

Hale, (resolved now): Tituba, I want you to wake this child.

Hale: You most certainly do, and you will free her from it now! When did you compact with the Devil?

It is clear that the Reverend is convinced of Tituba's guilt at this point and wishes to squeeze a confession out of her. When the Reverend Parris and Mr Putnam alternatively threaten to beat and hang her, Tituba breaks down terrified:

No, no, don't hang Tituba! I tell him I don't desire to work for him, sir.

It is in this moment of weakness that the Reverend sees an opportunity:

Then you saw him! (Tituba weeps). Now Tituba, I know that when we bind ourselves to Hell it is very hard to break with it. We are going to help you tear yourself free -

The floodgates are now open and Tituba starts blabbering out names and giving her audience whatever they want. This 'confession' encourages Abigail who starts doing the same. This, in turn, leads to Betty's miraculous recovery and she follows suit. The offer of redemption has suddenly encouraged them to confess so that they may be off the hook. 

It is evident that Reverend Hale's initial approach is different from that of others since he does not take an accusatory stance, but wants to use reason. This, however, devolves into a more direct, demanding and accusatory style of questioning once he believes he has pinpointed the origin of the ailment which has so suddenly afflicted Salem - Tituba. The resulting clamour from Abigail, Betty and later the other girls, is what eventually leads to the pernicious tragedy that befalls Salem.