What is Giles Coreys' role in "The Crucible"?

Expert Answers
pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Giles Corey is also used by the author to illustrate the level of hysteria that grips Salem in 1692.  When Reverend Hale comes to town, Corey, who is on his third wife, Martha, and is not very educated, is concerned that his wife reads books.  Of course Giles cannot read the way his wife does, so he is suspicious because his other two wives did not read like Martha.

Corey asks Reverend Hale a simple question that is misinterpreted.  He tells Hale that he cannot pray when his wife is reading her books, once she puts her books down, he can pray again. Hale becomes suspicious of Martha Corey who is arrested for witchcraft.  

Corey is used to show how a simple truth is perverted by the authorities in Salem and used as a weapon to put innocent people in jail and eventually executed.

ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Giles Corey is one person who doesn't care much about public opinion. He also didn't go to church much until he was an old man. On the outside, he seems tough and a nuisance, but he is actually honest and cares deeply about the truth. He is also the one character who defies the town and never confesses to witchcraft so that his sons can inherit his property. Despite the fact that he was tortured by having heavy stones placed on him, he refused to confess because doing so would have meant the state could take his property. He held out against the torture and his last words were "more weight". Thus, he could not be hanged nor convicted of witchcraft and his family's property was saved.

drgreen | Student

Giles represents the very example of the uneducated, common man. Though he cares little for the opinion of others he ends up being caught in the hysteria entirely accidentally. Among the most touching moments in the story is when he accidentally denounces his wife - not out of malace but naivete.

He also represents the strength of the human spirit to resist all social corruption and torture to do what is right. Clearly his many suits brought before the judges before indicate his ironclad belief in justice. He cannot tolerate injustice or suffer fools gladly. The ultimate act of sacrifice for justice is refusing to plea, because any plea would bankrupt his children. He cannot, even under the pain of torture, allow his name to be sullied or his children to be denied their inheritence. He is the precursor who foreshadows John Proctor's similar sacrifice. They are ultimately Miller's example that in the worst of situations good men will prevail no matter what the sacrifice.