Which characters were most concerned about their reputations in Arthur Miller's, The Crucible?
The first and most obvious, is the Reverend Samuel Parris, the village priest. Reverend Parris used to be a merchant and had a history of inviting derision wherever he went. When he arrived in Salem him brought with him not only his slave, Tituba, from Barbados, his daughter, Betty and niece, Abigail Williams, but also a long history of paranoia.
It did not take the Reverend long to feel that he was being persecuted by members of his congregation. He was terrified about being ousted from his position and had a need to protect his reputation at all costs. He felt that there was a 'faction' led specifically by John Proctor, Rebecca Nurse and Giles Corey whose sole purpose was to rid Salem of him, so when rumours of witchcraft were traced to his household because of the actions of his slave, daughter and niece, he made every attempt to clear his name.
The Reverend was so anxious about this that he constantly meddled in the court's affairs during the witch trials, to such an extent that he irritated Judge Danforth who, out of contempt for him, commanded him to shut up at one point. The Reverend's desperate attempts to retain his reputation and his position were, however, an exercise in futility. When the trials ended he was voted out of his post and left Salem, never to be seen or heard of again.
Another villager who was keen to protect his reputation was Thomas Putnam, the son of the wealthiest resident in the village. He had many grievances and huge resentment towards many in the village. He had consistently tried to manipulate affairs in the village to improve his reputation and status, with limited success. His failures in this regard made him a deeply embittered man, for, as Arthur Miller states:
... he regarded himself as the intellectual superior of most of the people around him.
Thomas Putnam felt that his own name and the honor of his family had been smirched by the village, and he meant to right matters however he could.
It is primarily for these reasons and his greed for others property that we find Thomas Putnam's names on most of the indictments against others for witchcraft. The trials offered him an opportunity to, as he believed, vindicate his good name and also, to enrich himself and gain greater status and authority.
Another individual intent on, not only to enhance his reputation but to assert it in whichever way he possibly could, was the mean and unscrupulously arrogant and stubborn head of proceedings during the trials, Deputy Governor Danforth. The judge was much aware of his reputation and consistently reminded witnesses and accused of his status and power, lest they forget. He, for example asks Francis Nurse the following during trial:
And do you know that near to four hundred are in the jails from Marblehead to Lynn, and upon my signature?
And seventy-two condemned to hang by that signature?
The judge obviously relishes his reputation as a no-nonsense dispenser of justice. No one dare challenge his authority, for they will face his most severe retribution. He is a commanding and dictatorial force throughout the trial, stamping his personality, authority and reputation on all the proceedings.
Finally, one has to mention the ill-fated John Proctor, our chief protagonist. His reputation was important to him for all the right reasons. John took a strong moral stance in defending his name once he had given his persecutors what they wanted: a false confession. He even went as far as signing such confession but when asked to hand it over, he balked. He would not have his name tarnished any further. His confession would be displayed for everyone to see. Since he was a respected man in the village, it would encourage others to follow his example. When asked why he refuses to hand over his confession, John in agony for what he had done, passionately cries out:
Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!
And in his final words before he is led to the scaffold, he tells Elizabeth:
Give them no tear! Tears pleasure them! Show honor now, show a stony heart and sink them with it!