Discuss how The Crucible is essentially about courage, weakness, and truth.

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The issue of truth is very much at the heart of The Crucible . The rampant witch craze that has descended upon the town of Salem like a plague of locusts is based on the very negation of truth as most people would understand it. Absolutely no one is guilty...

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The issue of truth is very much at the heart of The Crucible. The rampant witch craze that has descended upon the town of Salem like a plague of locusts is based on the very negation of truth as most people would understand it. Absolutely no one is guilty of the crime of witchcraft, and yet, thanks to the bare-faced lies of Abigail Williams and her petrified cohorts, the finger of suspicion is pointed at countless innocent people, many of whom are sent to their deaths as a consequence.

It's often said that the truth will out, but that's not what happens here. In fact, the bigger the lies told by Abbie and the other girls, the more likely people are to believe them. That's not to say that everyone in town is ignorant of the truth; John Proctor certainly knows what's what, as indeed does Reverend Hale, eventually. But in such a feverish, hysterical atmosphere, none of this matters. Lies have been established as the norm, and the truth is in constant retreat.

Under the circumstances, it takes enormous courage to stand up to such a sustained barrage of untruth. But for one reason or another, no one, other than John Proctor and Reverend Hale, are prepared to do this. Most people in town have been cowed into submission; they're too frightened to stick their heads above the parapet and challenge the mass hysteria that has fallen upon the town.

It takes real courage to stand up against such madness: the kind of courage that John Proctor displays and which will cost him his life. But in the end, John's sacrifice is futile, because the witch craze looks set to continue long after he's been executed and his body lies moldering in the grave.

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Courage in the story is epitomized by John Proctor, Giles Corey, and Rebecca. Giles Corey is subjected to torture, but he refuses to make the false confession. His last words are “More Weight!” signaling his defiance to the end. Despite being fully aware of the tragic events awaiting her, Rebecca Nurse refuses to confess, and she is set to hang. John is offered an opportunity to redeem himself, but he considers the impact of his confession and opts to stay defiant.

Reverend Parris demonstrates weakness in the story by agreeing to support falsehoods in order to save himself. Despite being aware of the truth, Parris supports Betty, Abigail, and Tituba when they falsely accuse other members of the society. The reverend takes the opportunity to distance himself from the events unfolding in the Salem community.

Rebecca Nurse stands with the truth to the end and refuses to issue a false confession. Hale discovers the truth but his attempts to stop the witch hunt come too late. Abigail and Mary Warren are exposed after Abigail steals from her uncle, and the two girls run away as the witch hunt is still ongoing. Danforth refuses to stand by the truth because it threatens his reputation.

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Certainly, the weaker characters are too afraid or simply unwilling to face the truth of the situation in The Crucible. Parris is a clear example. He would rather blame the girls' behavior on the Devil and witchcraft than think critically about Salem's way of life. Parris is too weak to consider that the girls were simply rebelling as young people do; and in this case, they were rebelling (playfully) against the fanatically strict way of life in Salem. Parris, being a religious authority in town, is reluctant to challenge the way of life that he helps to enforce. 

The courageous characters are brave enough to face the truth. With the exception of initially hiding his affair with Abigail, John Proctor faces the truth head on. He is also willing to challenge the court and all legal and religious authorities when he sees that they are missing the truth of the situation regarding the accusations of witchcraft. Elizabeth is also courageous and sticks to the truth with the exception of one instance when she lies to protect John from accusations of adultery. One of the more courageous moments in the play is when Giles Corey is put to death in a violent manner and he retains his integrity and bravery until the very end. Elizabeth relates the details of his death to John in Act Four: 

Great stones they lay upon his chest until he plead aye or nay. With a tender smile for the old man: They say he give them but two words. "More weight," he says. And died. 

The characters in the play who are weak tend to stick to traditions and their religious (and sometimes superstitious) doctrines to explain the events that take place. The more courageous characters are willing to think more critically and perhaps more importantly, the more courageous characters believe that someone accused of a crime (even witchcraft) is innocent until proven guilty. In this respect, the courageous characters seek actual proof whereas the weaker characters would rather place the blame on anyone but themselves and/or their way of life. 

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