The character of Mary Warren in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible represents perhaps the most frightening manifestation of the Red-baiting environment to which Miller’s play was intended as an allegory. One of the participants, albeit from a passive distance, to the dancing and playful exercise in sorcery that precipitates the chain of events leading to the Salem witch trials and subsequent hangings, Mary represents the largely innocent and generally benevolent citizens who recognizes the injustices around them but who lack the courage to confront those who would do others harm, and who end up conspiring against others to save themselves. When Mary is introduced, it is in the context of her panic regarding the witch-hunt already spinning out of control:
Enter Mary Warren, breathless. She is seventeen, a subservient, naive, lonely girl.
Mary Warren: What’ll we do? The village is out! I just come from the farm; the whole country’s talkin witchcraft! They’ll be callin’ us witches, Abby!
Abby, of course, is Abigail Williams, the young woman whose affair with the town’s most respected man, John Proctor, and her dismissal by John’s wife Elizabeth, results in her playful but vindictive activities in the woods with Betty, Mary and, most troubling, Tituba, the Parris family maid from Barbados who conducts activities associated among the town with black magic or sorcery. Accused of participating in witchcraft, Mary strenuously objects:
Mary Warren: I never done none of it, Abby. I only looked!
Mercy, moving menacingly toward Mary: Oh, you’re a great one for lookin’, aren’t you, Mary Warren? What a grand peeping courage you have!
After returning from the town of Salem, where Mary has been assigned to sit in judgment on the growing number of women caught up in the hysteria, she is confronted by her new employers, John and Elizabeth (Goody) Proctor:
Mary Warren: I am sick, I am sick, Mr. Proctor. Pray, pray, hurt me not. Her strangeness throws him op, and her evident pallor and weakness. He frees her. My insides are all shuddery; I am in the proceedings all day, sir.
Attempting to ingratiate herself with Elizabeth, Mary presents her with a doll:
Mary Warren: I made a gift for you today, Goody Proctor. I had to sit long hours in a chair, and passed he time with sewing.
Elizabeth, perplexed, looking at the doll: Why, thank you, it’s a fair poppet.
Mary Warren, with a trembling, decayed voice: We must all love each other now, Goody Proctor.
Elizabeth, amazed at her strangeness: Aye, indeed we must.
Mary Warren, glancing at the room: I’ll get up early in the morning and clean the house. I must sleep now. She turns and starts off.
Mary is not an inherently malicious person; on the contrary, she is barely an adult and has found herself caught up in a deadly situation a teenager could hardly hope to comprehend. As she becomes more embroiled in the hysteria and the trials and executions that resulted from her, Abigail, Betty, and Tituba’s seemingly innocent activity in the woods, she attempts to extricate herself by going with the flow, in effect, by taking the path of least resistance and concurring in the indictments that continue to pile up as the web of suspicion expands.
Mary had arrived in Salem expecting to help herself and her friends. Almost immediately, however, she is caught up in the hysteria that tears Salem apart.