In The Crucible, how does Arthur Miller explore that passionately holding onto a belief can both sustain and destroy?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The affairs between Abigail and John is an interesting one because both characters demonstrate the destructive and creative force behind conviction.  Abigail's coveting of John as well as her desire to control others proves how conviction can be dangerous.  She is relentless in her pursuit of the self- interested notion of the good.  She demonstrates how convictions can be destructive if they are not aimed at a social, collective, or redemptive vision.  For whatever reason, Abigail's convictions are driven by her desire to feed her own ends.  Her "mischievous enjoyment in wielding power of other people's lives" is where her conviction lies.  On the other hand, John Proctor has to emerge to embracing a sense of conviction that is to counter Abigail's destruction.  When Proctor cries that his "name" is the most important element, it is Miller's reminder that while there is a great capacity for evil in the world, there is an equal propensity for good, for redemption in the convictions of others who seek to challenge those convictions that destroy.  In this standoff between Abigail's evil and John's emergence into good, Miller demonstrates the nature of conviction.  He also pits both his characters and readers to see that there is a choice to be made as to which type of conviction to embrace.  While the conviction of destructive self interest is easy to accept, it takes a great deal of courage to embrace that which is socially redeeming.  Passion is involved in both.  Miller forces the reader to make conscious choices as to how this zeal is to be channeled.