How might John Hale's description of the countryside be regarded as symbolic of the moral and spiritual desolation that has afflicted Salem?  Act Four in The Crucible

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missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The best quote I can find of Hale referencing the countryside occurs in these words:

Excellency, there are orphans wandering from house to house; abandoned cattle bellow on the highroads, the stink of rotting crops hangs everywhere, and no man knows when the harlot's cry will end his life.

I will respond assuming this is the quote to which you refer. I think this is not just symbolic but a direct and literal description of the countryside during this time. If you need it to be a symbol of moral and spiritual desolation then let's look at it a little differently. These signs are of emptiness, inefficiency, and abandonment. The term "rotting crops" in particular calls to mind the fact that a spiritual or moral life requires planting, fertilizing, and watering to grow. When these disciplines aren't followed, the result is foul. This is happening in the society. Cattle are generally easy to please animals, but if they "bellow on the highroads" this demonstrates a loss of home and loss of nourishment from their masters who cared for them. This town is no longer receiving fulfilling nourishment from the minister, nor is it at home.