What is the evidence of sacrifice in Arthur Miller's The Crucible?
Evidence of sacrifice can be seen in the suffering of specific characters in The Crucible.
The suffering that characters endure reflects the sacrifices they make for their beliefs. Giles Corey sacrifices greatly for his beliefs. He is convinced that people like Putnam use the witch trials as a way to advance their own agenda. He sacrifices for his outspoken nature, evident in how he calls out for "more weight" while being pressed to death.
In a similar manner, Elizabeth Proctor sacrifices for her husband. To protect his reputation, she lies in court, sacrificing her name. She then refuses to beg him to reconsider his confession because of how it shows his "goodness," something she will not take away from him. Elizabeth sacrifices her happiness as a married wife because of the love she holds for her husband.
Proctor makes the ultimate sacrifice for his beliefs. In Act III, he knows Abigail and the girls are lying. His commitment to truth and stopping the suffering they are inflicting causes him to implicate himself in court. He goes to jail in the name of his beliefs. In Act IV, Proctor sacrifices again. Unwilling to "sign himself to lies" and ashamed at his momentary willingness to do so, Proctor sacrifices his own life for the truth. As a result, Proctor stands up for truth in a world that does not value it.
Characters like Giles Corey and Elizabeth and John Proctor have to sacrifice mightily for their beliefs. Their desire to be decent in an indecent time compels them to forgo a great deal. Through these characterizations, Arthur Miller suggests the commitment to our values and the sacrifice they entail become more important when situations are difficult. The need to sacrifice in trying times underscores our commitment to ideals, something that represents the ultimate currency in a world of shifting values.
Arthur Miller portrays sacrifice through the selfless, courageous actions of certain characters in the play. Both Martha Corey and Rebecca Nurse are falsely accused of engaging in witchcraft and arrested. Instead of confessing and saving their lives, the two morally-upright women demonstrate their integrity by refusing to comply with the corrupt court. They are willing to sacrifice their lives and challenge the court by refusing to confess.
Martha's husband, Giles Corey, also challenges the court and sacrifices his life in order to protect the man who overheard Thomas Putnam instructing his daughter to accuse George Jacobs of witchcraft. Giles Corey refuses to tell Deputy Governor Danforth who is responsible for the deposition and ends up being sentenced to death.
John Proctor also sacrifices his life to end the witchcraft hysteria and ruin the corrupt court. John not only sacrifices his positive reputation by admitting to infidelity with Abigail Williams, but he also tears up his confession and refuses to accuse any of his innocent neighbors of witchcraft. In order to stop the senseless violence and end the witch trials, brave men and women had to sacrifice their lives.
The characters in The Crucible with the moral courage to make exceedingly difficult choices are emblematic of sacrifice.
John Proctor first sacrifices his reputation when he publicly confesses his affair with Abigail in an attempt to make the court see what her true motivations are in accusing his wife of witchcraft. In a Puritan society, such an admission could lead to excommunication from their religious commune, or even execution, and Proctor ultimately sacrifices his life by refusing to confess to witchcraft, which is the only way he could save himself from the noose.
Giles and Martha Corey also sacrifice their earthly lives to take a moral stand against the corruption of the Salem Witch Trials. In refusing to enter guilty pleas, they deny the trials the legitimacy that the authorities were so desperate to impart to them.
Rebecca Nurse, too, sacrifices her earthly existence because of her deep piousness. Rebecca is certain that God's justice will be perfect; though Salem theocracy's has been compromised, and so she refuses to offer the false confession that would enable her to stay alive.