How do the characters in Miller's The Crucible confirm or refute the idea of an absolute distinction between good and evil?
Danforth decribes an absolute dichotomy between good and evil- "we live longer in the dusky afternoon when evil mixes itself with good and befuddled the world" (94) How do the actions of the characters in this play confirm or refute this idea?
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It seems to me that Danforth, in this quotation, is talking about the blurring of the lines between good and evil. Afternoon is a time on the edge of daylight and dark. Thus, just as light mixes with the darkness in the late afternoon especially, so too evil and good are intermingled in human life.
In Miller's play, one of the major themes is our inability to identify something or someone as "good" or "bad" based on their appearance.
Judge Danforth, for example, has no doubt in his mind that whatever course of action he chooses is the right one; but in being so insistent upon his correctness, he is actually behaving in an evil way by putting innocent people to death. He is proud of the fact that he has jailed hundreds and that "seventy-two condemned to hang by [his] signature".
Goody Sarah Good appears to be the opposite of what her name implies. From the outside world's perception, she appears to be evil and is thrown in jail as a witch, even though she has apparently not done anything wrong other than look strange.
In contrast, young women like Abigail Williams, Mary Warren, and Susanna Walcott appear to the outside world as if they are innocent victims under some evil spell. They are anything but innocent, however, and are engaged in an evil game that brings many people to ruin.
Finally, a character like John Proctor embodies the blurring of good and bad that exists in all human beings. He insists upon telling the truth even if it means revealing that he has committed a terrible sin. His comments near the end of the play indicate the division within himself:
How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul, leave me my name!
Thus, I would say that most of the major figures within the play refute the idea of absolute goodness. They all exhibit some blurring of the line between good and evil. Miller's message appears to be that all human beings live in the twilight between good and evil.