Why is there discussion of what happened in Andover in The Crucible?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Reverend Parris begs Deputy Governor Danforth to postpone the hangings that are scheduled to take place in act four. He has been threatened himself, and his niece has disappeared with his life's savings. Abigail Williams, Parris's niece, is the person who began the accusations. She accused several people and provided false evidence against them; thus, she bears a great deal of responsibility and guilt for those who have been killed in the name of justice.

Parris argues that Abigail and her friend, Mercy Lewis, must have "run off" because "they fear to keep in Salem any more." He claims that "Abigail had close knowledge of the town, and since the news of Andover has broken here—" Danforth then cuts him off. There are rumors that the people of Andover have rebelled against the court, exonerating anyone who has been accused of witchcraft. They have refused to take part in any further trials or even to listen to accusations. Parris reports on these rumors and says that there is a "faction" in Salem that is "feeding on that news," and so Parris fears that "there will be riot" in Salem as a result. He has always feared that he would be removed from his position by those who oppose him. If the people of Salem do riot, they will likely topple anyone in a position of power—such as the minister himself, as well as the judges—and unseat them from their positions of authority because that authority has been so mightily abused and corrupted.

Parris has been defensive about his status from the beginning of the play and has voiced his paranoia regarding a faction that opposes him too. He seems to hope that referring to Andover will compel Danforth to postpone the hangings, as Parris seems to believe that these hangings will be the last straw for the people of Salem.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In act three of The Crucible, Reverend Hale returns to Salem. Deputy Governor Danforth asks him if he has preached in Andover in the last month to which Hale responds, “Thank God they have no need of me in Andover.”

Andover is a neighboring town of Salem, and this seemingly random comment actually reveals a lot about the knowledge and motives of the characters.

Andover also had a witch hunt that resulted in a trial, which shows the universality of the witchcraft hysteria. This was not a singular event in Salem but rather an issue that affected multiple towns.

In Andover, there was an uprising from the citizens who recognized that the trial was a sham. They threw out the court and saved the lives of those accused of witchcraft.

Danforth and Judge Hawthorne are aware of these events and do not want the same to happen in Salem. This reveals their deep desire to hold power and the lengths they will go to maintain that power. They are willing to move forward with the trial while being aware of how other communities have rebelled against it because they are afraid of losing the power they currently hold.

This also reveals the guilt that Hale feels and explains his reason for returning to Salem.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In act four, Judge Hathorne suggests that Deputy Governor Danforth question Reverend Hale concerning his business in the nearby town of Andover, but Danforth dismisses his suggestion and tells Hathorne to speak nothing of Andover. Andover is a town similar to Salem which has recently experienced its own witchcraft hysteria. Unlike Salem, Andover's community discovered that the proceedings were corrupt, rebelled against the ruling officials, and threw out the court. Danforth fears that Salem's citizens are capable of doing the same thing but does not want to entertain the terrible thought of rebellion.

Shortly after their brief conversation, Reverend Parris arrives and informs Danforth and Hathorne that Abigail has robbed him of his life savings and fled the village with Mercy Lewis. Parris then mentions that he believes Abigail was motivated to flee Salem out of fear that the citizens would rebel like they did in the town of Andover. When Danforth insists that Andover is remedied and the court will return on Friday, Parris comments that the rumor throughout town is that the court has been thrown out of Andover as a result of the rebellion. Parris also mentions that there is a faction "feeding" on the news and planning a riot.

Overall, Reverend Parris, Danforth, and Hathorne discuss the events that transpired in Andover because they fear Salem's citizens will eventually rebel and throw the court out. Although Danforth shares their concerns, he refuses to entertain the idea of being cast out by rebellious citizens and is determined to execute Rebecca Nurse and John Proctor if they do not confess to witchcraft.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

When Hale returns in Act IV, Danforth asks him if he has been preaching in Andover. While a seemingly innocent question, Danforth's paranoia and Hale's answers shows the reader how other towns have dealt with their witchcraft scares.

Danforth asks Hale

Mr. Hale, have you preached in Andover this past month

And Hale responds

Thank God they have no need of me in Andover.

Like Salem, Andover had a "witchcraft outbreak." However, unlike Salem, the people of Andover have been able to move past the scheming and finger pointing and repair their town. The town has united against the courts and thrown them out of their town. Danforth, with good reason, worries that such a fate might happen in Salem. Hale returns to Salem as a means of atonement for his previous actions (condemning the people of Salem for witchcraft). He knows now that witchcraft is not present in Salem the same way that the people in Andover now realize witchcraft was not in their town.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial