In "The Crucible", what is the significance of Hale's visit to the Proctor household and what does his interrogation reveal about attitudes in Salem?
Hale comes to Salem, at the request of Reverend Parris out of concern for his little daughter, Betty, who lies in her sick bed. He needs to investigate the people of the community to determine if there is any witchcraft being practiced.
"Hale: I am a stranger here, as you know. And in my ignorance I find it hard to draw a clear opinion of them that come accused before the court." (Miller)
What he discovers is that there are people who refuse to believe that there are witches in Salem, like the Proctors, and then there are those who are eager to accuse their neighbors of witchcraft, it is only after he has helped to condemn many people that Hale realizes that the motives of those who were eager to believe and accuse is self-interest and personal gain, or is driven by a desire to seek revenge or punish their neighbors.
He goes to the Proctor's home becaus Elizabeth Proctor's name was mentioned in court, so he has to investigate the Proctors to see what their Christian commitment is and if they are good people, good Puritans.
Proctor begins his conversation with Hale by defending Rebecca Nurse who has been accused of witchcraft by Mrs. Putnam. Proctor's unwillingness to believe in the devil's influence over the saintly Mrs. Nurse causes Hale to reply:
"Hale: But the Devil is a wily one, you cannot deny it. However, she is far from accused. I thought sir to put some questions as to the Christian character of this house." (Miller)
This presents a problem for Proctor, because he has not attended church regularly, he has missed several Sundays. And when quizzed on his knowledge of the ten commandments, he cannot remember them all. Mrs. Proctor has to fill in the one he missed, adultery.
Proctor has to explain why he has missed church, he tells Hale that his wife was sick and that he needed to work his farmland harder in order to feed his family, so he did not have the time to spare. He also expresses his dislike for Reverend Parris.
"Proctor: Since we built the church there were pewter candlesticks upon the altar, Francis Nurse mad them . But Parris came and for twenty week he preach nothin but golden candlesticks until he had them. I labor the earth from dawn of day to blink of night and I tell you true when I look to heaven and see my money glaring at his elbows it hurt my prayer." (Miller)
Hale also asks Proctor why his third child is not baptized, and Proctor has to tell him that it is because he just doesn't think that Reverend Parris is a holy man. Of course Hale objects and tells Proctor that it is not his place to judge a man of God.
Elizabeth Proctor is also questioned and reveals a lack of belief in the existence of witches, especially if Hale is making the accusation that the Devil has taken over the soul of some women in Salem.
"Elizabeth: If you think that I am one, then I say there are none." (Miller)
Hale is determined to find the work of the Devil in Salem, and he reminds Proctor that even the Devil was one of God's angels and fell from grace. The visit is very significant because it is right after this that the poppet with the needle in its stomach is discovered in the Proctor home. Elizabeth is then carted off to jail, accused by Abigail Williams, of being a witch.