How does the theme of reputation affect certain characters and their motives in The Crucible?

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Reputation is closely attached to power in the Puritan setting of Salem, and characters such as John Proctor, Abigail Williams, and Mary Warren demonstrate a willingness to destroy the power of others by attacking their reputation.

Abigail Williams understands that her own desires toward John Proctor do not fit within...

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Reputation is closely attached to power in the Puritan setting of Salem, and characters such as John Proctor, Abigail Williams, and Mary Warren demonstrate a willingness to destroy the power of others by attacking their reputation.

Abigail Williams understands that her own desires toward John Proctor do not fit within the confines of a Puritan society. She therefore amasses power by building a reputation that falsely represents what her society expects her to be. Abigail may be young, but she realizes that her credibility depends on intimidating other girls so that they publicly support her. When Abigail begins destroying the lives of others by publicly accusing them of witchcraft, she finds that her own power and status in the community is elevated.

Mary Warren is a weak character who finds power by associating with Abigail and by going along with her plans to destroy Elizabeth. She realizes that Elizabeth is innocent of the supposed crimes Abigail accuses her of, but she also enjoys the brief sense of power that being part of this group brings her. Mary's reputation is entirely dependent on the power of Abigail; she is not strong enough to do the right thing and thus has no real power of her own. In the end, the ostracization Mary faces for failing to support Abigail and the other girls is too much; she slanders innocent people, accusing them of witchcraft, in order to further her own reputation as a young girl who has a sense of power over her community.

John Proctor's reputation is initially his only concern. He understands that in order to deflate Abigail's power, he will need to admit to his affair with her. He finds himself unable to face this reality, allowing Abigail's power to grow. In the end, John realizes that integrity is more important than his reputation, and this gives him the power to verbalize the truth, regardless of consequences. He is unwilling to preserve his reputation at the expense of his soul, and he ultimately grasps an eternal sense of power which is not dependent on an earthly reputation.

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