The Crucible Essential Quotes by Theme: Reputation
by Arthur Miller

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Essential Quotes by Theme: Reputation

Essential Passage 1: Act 1

Parris: Mr. Corey, you will look far for a man of my kind at sixty pound a year! I am not used to this poverty; I left a thrifty business in the Barbados to serve the Lord. I do not fathom it, why am I persecuted here? I cannot offer one proposition but there be a howling riot of argument. I have often wondered if the Devil be in it somewhere; I cannot understand you people otherwise.

Proctor: Mr. Parris, you are the first minister ever did demand the deed to this house—

Parris: Man! Don’t a minister deserve a house to live in?

Proctor: To live in, yes. But to ask ownership is like you shall own the meeting house itself; the last meeting I were at you spoke so long on deeds and mortgages I thought it were an auction.

Parris: I want a mark of confidence, is all! I am your third preacher in seven years. I do not wish to put out like the cat whenever some majority feels the whim. You people seem not to comprehend that a minister is the Lord’s man in the parish; a minister is not to be so lightly crossed and contradicted—

Putnam: Aye!

Parris: There is either obedience or the church will burn like Hell is burning!

Parris, as the pastor of the only church in Salem, is insecure in his position. His concern with Betty’s illness is not for her safety but his own reputation if there is a charge of witchcraft brought against someone of his own house. This has shifted the argument from witchcraft to his role as pastor. Proctor has been accused of being lax in his church attendance. It is because, he says, of Parris and his method of preaching. Defensively, Parris complains that he is not provided for by the community. His demand for ownership of the parsonage is a method to gain security that he knows his reputation will not provide. As the minister, he demands respect and the signs that accompany that respect. He is “the Lord’s man,” and thus deserves more than he is getting. He threatens eternal damnation if he is not obeyed and respected.

Essential Passage 2: Act 4

Danforth, conciliatory: You misunderstand, sir; I cannot pardon these when twelve are already hanged for the same crime. It is not just.

Parris, with failing heart: Rebecca will not confess?

Hale: The sun will rise in a few minutes. Excellency, I must have more time.

Danforth: Now hear me, and beguile yourselves no more. I will not receive a single plea for pardon or postponement. Them that will not confess will hang. Twelve are already executed; the names of these seven are given out, and the village expects to see them die this morning. Postponement now speaks a floundering on my part; reprieve or pardon must cast doubt upon the guilt of them that died till now. While I speak God’s law, I will not crack its voice with whimpering. If retaliation is your fear, know this—I should hang ten thousand that dared to rise against the law, and an ocean of salt tears could not melt the resolution of the statutes. Now draw yourselves up like men and help me, as you are bound by Heaven to do.

Danforth, as the lead judge in the witch trials, has had difficulty maintaining his objectivism. Designated the legal arbiter in spiritual cases, he admits that he is forced to use evidence that is not seen. After several months, the rightness of the case of witchcraft is beginning to be questioned, even by Parris and Danforth themselves. The illogic of the position is clear: If you are innocent, you die. If you proclaim your guilt, you live. The tenuous nature of this line of reasoning, as well as the increasing number of people who refuse to confess, has cast doubt on the trials. Yet Danforth cannot stop. If he refused to try and hang those found guilty of witchcraft, it would mean that he had been wrong in the twelve cases that were pursued to the end. His reputation as a judge, and indeed of the court system of Massachusetts itself, hangs on the refusal to admit error. Rather than damage the reputation of the court, more people must die.


(The entire section is 1,651 words.)