How does guilt play a central themeĀ in The Crucible?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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While guilt is certainly present in Arthur Miller's play The Crucible, I would have a hard time saying that it is a central theme.

The examples of where guilt are seen is John Proctor's guilt for having an affair with Abigail and John Hale's guilt for being a part of the hysteria in Salem.

John Proctor, by the end of the play, can be seen as a man truly sorry for his actions. He wishes to make good on the accusations against his wife by calling out Abigail for what she is: a liar and a woman involved in an adulterous relationship. The fact that Proctor feels guilt for the affair, compacted with the accusations against his wife and friends, forces him to come to terms with his guilt.

As for reverend John Hale, Hale is brought in from another town fro being a noted expert on witches. He comes to Salem to help the townspeople with their problem. In the end, it is his expertise which lends itself to the hysteria and caused the numerous accusations to fly. Hale feels guilty because of his position and supposed knowledge on the subject. He resigns himself from the courts in order to relieve himself of some of the guilt he feels.

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