Who experiences the greatest shift of power in The Crucible?

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Within a Puritan society, adolescent girls were ranked only above slaves. It was a patriarchal culture, and even adult women had little empowerment, being relegated to caring for the home and children. They had no role in public life or theocratic government. Without the social legitimacy of a husband and...

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Within a Puritan society, adolescent girls were ranked only above slaves. It was a patriarchal culture, and even adult women had little empowerment, being relegated to caring for the home and children. They had no role in public life or theocratic government. Without the social legitimacy of a husband and children, a teenage girl was essentially a nonentity.

Within the context of a Puritan society, then, it is nothing short of extraordinary when the girls' accusations begin to gain traction and the court officials turn to them to produce testimony to convict men and women of Salem based only on the girls' assertions and the accused's refusal to confess.

The word of adult men, including John Proctor, Giles Corey, and Francis Nurse, as well as the urging of John Hale—a minister, no less—is considered less reliable than that of young girl. This marks an extraordinary power shift in Salem. The theocracy makes the fatal mistake of empowering a group of girls who, having been virtually invisible their whole lives, now have the ability to take down the innocent.

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There are several characters who experience significant shifts in power in the play. Abigail Williams and Reverend Hale present the most compelling examples of characters who change in relation to the possession or attribution of power. 

Abigail is nearly powerless at the opening of the play, gossip has gotten around about her being fired from the Proctor house and she is accused of dancing naked in the woods. From this position Abigail rises to prominence and influence, ultimately playing an instrumental role in "proving" the guilt of both John Proctor and Elizabeth Proctor. 

Reverend Hale arrives with a significant moral authority at the beginning of the play only to lose that authority entirely when he realizes that the witchcraft claims are false. He further slides away from any moral authority when he fails to speak out publically against the trials. 

...he lacks the moral conviction to act against proceedings that will condemn innocents to death.

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I would argue that Reverend Parris experiences the most intense shift of political power in the work.  On one hand, Parris represents the pinnacle of power.  At the time, Salem's political power rested with the spiritual authority.  Therefore, as the town's reverend, Parris enjoyed a great deal of political power.  This is seen in the trials and the discourse leading to it.  By the time Act III unfolds, Parris is massively powerful.  Yet, in Act IV, the vision of Parris that is rendered is one where there is complete and utter disintegration.  Parris understands that his position in the Salem social configuration is rapidly descending, something highlighted by the death threats as well as the lack of public support in the trial.  At the same time, Parris understands that he is no longer seen as a spiritual force as the trials are becoming more transparent as a political exercise that has lost legitimacy with the public.  Miller's epilogue to the drama, "Echoes Down the Corridor," reveals this shift and transformation as complete.  The ending of the trials results in Parris leaving Salem "on the open road" and never being heard from again.  In this, Parris experiences the greatest amount of shift in political power.

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