What is the significance of Hale's remark about the books being "weighted with authority" in The Crucible?

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In Arthur Miller's 'The Crucible', Reverend Hale's remark about the books being "weighted with authority" refers to the immense faith he places in his own knowledge and education about witchcraft. This overconfidence, derived from extensive reading, leads him to view himself as the ultimate authority in identifying witches. However, this arrogance blinds him to the truth, causing harm to innocents. Eventually, Hale recognizes his hubris and the destructive consequences of his unwavering belief in the books' authority.

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This statement, spoken by the renowned witch hunter Reverend Hale, shows the tremendous faith he has in his own education, as well as his overconfidence and even cockiness when it comes to his ability to find witches. His arrogance, which stems from the amount of reading he has done on the subject of witches, is on full display when he says things like,

No, no. Now let me instruct you. We cannot look to superstition in this. The Devil is precise; the marks of his presence are definite as stone.

Standing in a room with at least a few intelligent people, some with more education or experience than otherss—and even another minister, the Reverend Parris—Hale champions the knowledge he's gained from his weighty books. He is the expert here because he has read and studied all of these texts. In fact, he refuses even to continue his investigation unless the others are "prepared to believe" him should he determine that Betty Parris is not the clutches of hell. He believes that "all the invisible world" has been "caught, defined, and calculated" in his books, and Hale claims that he will "crush [Satan] utterly if he has shown his face!" In other words, Hale—a mere mortal minister—believes that his books give him the power to "crush" a supernatural adversary who once (in his religious view) almost succeeded in overthrowing heaven. This is hubris indeed.

Hale does come to recognize this later in the play. In Act Four, he describes his earlier self, saying,

I came into this village like a bridegroom to his beloved, bearing gifts of high religion; the very crowns of holy law I brought, and what I touched with my bright confidence, it died [. . .].

He knows that he was overconfident, that he trusted too much in the authority of others, and that it led him to turn a blind eye to truth. He is brought quite low in the end.

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When Reverend Hale first arrives at Reverend Parris's home in Salem, he is carrying half a dozen heavy books. Reverend Parris proceeds to lift one of the books up and comments on their heavy weight. Hale responds by saying,

They must be; they are weighted with authority. (Miller, 37)

Reverend Hale is figuratively commenting on the authority of the experts who wrote the books on witchcraft and the dark arts. He is depicted as an enthusiastic intellectual who has spent a significant amount of time studying the books. The books were written by acclaimed experts in the areas of supernatural and spiritual realms. Hale aligns himself with their authority and firmly believes that he is equipped and trained to discover the presence of evil in Salem.

Hale's education regarding the dark arts gives him supreme confidence and contributes to his narrow perspective on Salem's problems. He lacks the ability to discern between truth and lies because he is so invested in his knowledge and so confident in his authority on the subject. By referring to the books as "weighted with authority," Miller is cleverly using a play on words, because the information in the text will lead to the deaths of many innocent civilians.

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The weighty tomes that Hale brings with him to Salem are both literally and metaphorically heavy. Physically, they are enormous and over-sized. Figuratively, they are weighted with the authority of those who claim to be experts in the subject of witchcraft. At this stage in the play, Hale is still incredibly naive. He seems to think that consulting one of his learned volumes is all you need to do to identify a witch.

But as he will soon discover, the judicial authorities of Salem have their own ideas of what constitutes a witch, ideas that they didn't get from any book. Hale comes to realize that there are all kinds of factors involved in the witch-trials—personal, social, economic—that have nothing whatsoever to do with what's written down in any book. No matter how weighty, learned, or erudite Hale's books may be, they cannot capture the social and political complexity of the witch-hunting hysteria. Hale's book-learning has run up against the harsh realities of small town political life, and it's a sobering, disillusioning experience for him.

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In Hale's quote from Act I, we see an example of Miller's clever word play.  When Hale comes to town (after being sent for by Reverend Parris) he comes with large books filled with knowledge of the supernatural world.

Here are all your familiar spirits- your incubi and succubi; your witches that go by land, by air, and by sea; your wizards of the night and of the day.

Hale's books are "weighty" in two ways. 1) They are heavy.  The large, over-sized books document all aspects of the witchcraft world.  2) The information in the books will condemn those who are witches and set free those who are not.  At this point in the play, Hale trusts the books' knowledge and believes that armed with the information contained in them, he can find out if the girls are afflicted and find out who is tormenting them.

 

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In The Crucible, what is the significance of the remark "They must be heavy; they are weighted with authority"?

This quote employs the use of a pun. A pun is at work any time a word can have two different meanings. Often, one meaning is the denotative meaning which is the literal or dictionary definition. In this case heavy and weighted both refer to the literal fact that the books are large and likely weigh several pounds. The other meaning is the connotative meaning, the understood meaning because of slang or a figure of speech that both parties would likely use. In this case, these two words reference the depth of spirituality that the books contain. Figuratively, Hale is claiming a great amount of God's authority rests within these particular books.

Another noteworthy aspect of this quote is the circumstances under which it is said. Rev. Hale says this to John Proctor after Proctor notices how large and numerous the books that Hale brings actually are. John likely meant his comments as a jest, Hale takes in jest as literal and responds with confidence in the job he is about to do in releasing the afflicted girl from the evil spirit which possesses her. This builds suspense and conflict as Proctor is almost questioning the authority of Hale. As you see the close of the play, you'll see that Proctor had good reason to doubt.

 

 

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What is the significance of the quote from The Crucible, which is listed below?"They [the books] must be [heavy]; they are weighted with authority."

This statement from The Crucible was made by Reverend Hale as he arrived in Salem.  These books are the reference books Hale will use to determine whether or not Salem has, in fact, been visited by witches.  Reverend Parris makes a rather off-hand comment about how heavy they are as he helps Hale carry them to his house.  Reverend Hale sees nothing to joke about and replies with the quote you cite above.  This statement has significance in several ways.

First, though these sober Puritans were unlikely to be too frivolous in such matters, Hale's statement reminded them all that witchcraft (and thus the presence of the Devil and his spirits) was no joking matter.  Second, Hale was a learned man who had studied these tomes carefully, and the fact that he had been sent for was an indication that the Devil may very well have set up shop in Salem.  He was the authority, based on those books, which were another authority.  Third, if these books proved the existence of witchery they carried the spiritual weight and authority of law.  The books were the authority of the law in terms of these matters; and the keeper (and interpreter) of the books, Hale, was their authority.

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What is the significance of the quote from The Crucible, which is listed below?"They [the books] must be [heavy]; they are weighted with authority."

In my opinion, the significance of this quote is that it shows the attitudes that people have towards the idea of authority.  It shows that people value authority -- they think that what authority figures say is important.

This is in contrast to a kind of time when people value authority less and value evidence or reason more.  In our day (I hope) we do not ask "what do the authorities (the conventional wisdom) say about this."  Instead (I would hope) we ask "what makes sense here" or "what evidence is there for this."

But Salem was not like this back then.  They did not ask for evidence that witchcraft really existed.  They did not try to reason things out.  Instead, they asked what the authorities thought and they just went with that instead of thinking for themselves.

When people just rely on authority instead of thinking for themselves, they are in danger of having a herd or a mob mentality -- they just all act the same (for example, they persecute witches) without thinking about what they are doing.

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