What is shown by Mary's reactions to Danforth's questioning?  

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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On one level, Mary's reactions show her emotional instability and her own shaky foundation.  Danforth even has to ask if Mary is well when she sees her stammering and unable to stand in court.  This physical form of weakness is evident in her own frame of mind.  Danforth has to recognize this.  He also understands that a major component of Proctor's defense and attack upon the court's accusations come from Mary.  Danforth knows that if Mary can wither under the harsh glare from the court, Proctor's hope of disproving the court's accusations go with it.  It is for this reason that he questions her in a harsh manner, opening with her own claims and how they can be seen as perjury.  Bringing Abigail and the other girls in the courtroom is another example of how Danforth's questioning reveals her own sense of weakness.  Rather than stop Abigail and the girls from intimidating Mary as a witness, Danforth continues and perpetuates it until Mary breaks down.  Miller wishes to show how the court and its proceedings are not exactly in line with the promises in the pursuit of justice.  Rather, the court is more concerned with its own standing and its own perceived strength.  Mary's weakness is perceived by Danforth, who does little to help the frail witness, but rather seizes upon it.  Mary's reactions to Danforth's questioning helps to show this and illuminates how Mary ends up being used by others to further their own agendas.

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