What does Elizabeth Proctor's pregnancy symbolize in "The Crucible?"

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Elizabeth Proctor's pregnancy ensures that she escapes death by hanging, the customary punishment for witchcraft. It has great symbolic significance for the play, not least because the prospect of new life contrasts with the death and suffering imposed upon the town by a mindless witch-hunt.

When the child comes to be born, like all newborn babies it will be completely innocent. But the society into which the baby will be born is anything but. Just about everyone in Salem has been adversely affected by the hysterical witch-craze. There needs to be a fresh start, a wholesale renewal of society, if the town's going to move on from this nightmare. Elizabeth's unborn child represents just such a fresh start. He or she will be part of the next generation, and represents hope for the future. Indeed, one could argue that Elizabeth's baby exists to remind us that hope never dies, even in the midst of rampant injustice and repression.

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In "The Crucible," Elizabeth is one of the most honest, forthright characters. She only lies when she denies John Proctor's affair with Abigail which she does so only to protect him. When it is revealed she is pregnant, Proctor backs her up, saying, "But if she say she is pregnant, then she must be! That woman will never lie, Mr. Danforth." Indeed, she does lie later in Act 3 but only to protect John. Therefore, what her pregnancy symbolizes is first, quite simply, the truth. Elizabeth has too much integrity to lie even if only to save herself from hanging. I think the child of the pregnancy can symbolize two conflicting meanings. One is that, since the child was created during this time of hysteria, the Salem citizens might look upon it and all such children as if they are the products of a socially (and for the witch fanatics, a spiritually) corrupt generation. On the other hand, the child could represent new life and hope that the next generation will be comprised of honorable and logicalcitizens. 

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