In The Crucible, why has Hale come to Salem?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Crucible by Arthur Miller is based on the occurrences in Salem, USA in the seventeenth century. The community is steeped in superstition and easily persuaded that evil pervades their town when the minister's daughter, Betty Parris and her cousin, Abigail Williams, are caught dancing naked in the forest, a "sinful" activity. The girls, so as not to get into trouble, invent an elaborate plan to suggest that they are not responsible for their actions and have in fact been influenced by witches and are possessed. The townspeople believe these claims and, with their own agendas and need for retribution for their own unrelated problems, become involved in a web of intricate lies and assumptions which create an unmanageable situation. The Reverend Parris, Betty's father, sees an opportunity to create a name for himself and re-establish his authority in the town and, after the girls have provided the names of those so-called "witches," the town prepares to try and convict them. The crimes are punishable by hanging and the situation is, therefore, untenable as, even those who defend the accused are then also implicated and many innocent people are sentenced to hang.

The Reverend John Hale, "a specialist" in exposing witchcraft, comes from Beverly, a nearby town, at Reverend Parris's request, to officiate at the trials. He is tasked with establishing the connection to witchcraft and to expose the truth. He is considered an expert because he has studied its origins and even convicted a witch in his own town. He is excited to face "the Fiend himself." 

Eventually, however, recognizes the injustice. He begins to doubt the truth of the trials and, when Proctor is found guilty, he is tormented. He does try to find a way to change the outcome but is, however, not influential enough to make a difference, despite his expertise and knowing that the accused are not guilty. Matters have gone too far.