Beyond The Superficial Essay, Research Paper
Beyond the Superficial
Throughout the tumultuous Red Scare era, people struggled with the issue of daily conduct. Revealing one s creed or beliefs could have severe ramifications. People brooded over how to express themselves in an appropriate manner. By directly stating your feelings, provided that they were considered the wrong feelings, a person risked persecution as a Communist. But the Catch 22 of the matter is that everyone needs to share ideas and thoughts. So the question was, how did one go about expressing himself without welcoming contempt and possible punishment? Some people chose to produce movies and express themselves through the movie. Another answer was to disregard the consequences and be blunt about how they felt. Sometimes these were acceptable solutions, and other times they created a larger problem. Arthur Miller s approach was to write The Crucible. His response to the oppression was to use parallels in his play to address the issues of the time period. The major metaphor is the persecution of and attitude toward those suspected of witchcraft, which represents the persecution of and attitude toward those suspected of Communist beliefs. You can find other metaphors by analyzing each character. Hale, one of the play s central characters, portrays a theme that not only pertained to the fifties, but can be applied to any era. As Hale enters Salem, he is be characterized as a man who believes in the justice of the court and the goodness of mankind. He views the world in terms black and white. But, as the play concludes, through his relationship with other characters, his personal experiences, and his introspection, he arrives at an epiphany. Not everything is as it appears.
Reverend Hale s interaction and relationships with other characters provide him with additional information and insights on how to view the world. His initial reaction to each character shows his superficial perception of the character. Upon further examination, Hale discovers that the actions of each person don t always provide an accurate portrayal of their character. This situation is evident in Hale s approach to John Proctor. Initially, Hale is skeptical of Proctor s Puritan devotion. With the combination of John s poor record of church attendance, his failure to recite the Ten Commandments, and the accusation that Elizabeth is a witch, Hale begins to suspect the presence of the Devil. Hale explains, Theology, sir, is a fortress; no crack in a fortress may be accounted small. Noticing numerous cracks in Proctor s theology, Hale implies that, if it s not the case already, these flaws will John susceptible to evil. In Hale s world of black and white, one flaw can be a catalyst, which leads to a person s demise. His philosophy is that it is all or none. When Hale realizes that Proctor doesn t have all of the proper Puritan beliefs, he is inclined to believe that Proctor is evil. As Hale becomes acquainted with Proctor, his initial opinion fades to reveal the truth. Proctor is a respectable man. He comes to the understanding that Proctor has other priorities and extenuating circumstances that have precluded his perfect existence. Hale decides that even good men have flaws, and sometimes the greatest evil resides within a person who demonstrates no apparent flaws.
Through his personal experiences, in his relationships and through insights, Hale discovers that the expected outcome doesn t always happen. Hale s faith based principles told him that the court always served justice. Those who were guilty would be reprimanded, and those who were innocent would be set free. This mindset is illustrated by Hale, Let you rest upon the justice of the court; the court will send her home, I know it. Hale says this in response to Francis Nurse s question about how he should react to his wife being accused of witchcraft. Hale knows that he is in a position where he could pardon Goody Nurse, but he has such a profound belief in justice, that he defers to the court. As more and more respectable members of Salem are accused and subsequently convicted of witchcraft, Hale realizes that the court doesn t always serve justice. Upon his comprehension of this fact, he storms out of the courtroom shouting, I denounce these proceedings, I quit this court! The quotation shows how his belief in the court has evolved in the past few months. When he arrived in Salem, he never would have publicly denounced the court. Now, he realizes that justice will not always be served, even through the court. This experience leads him to question the fundamentals of his beliefs.
In the aftermath of the trials and the majority of the hangings, Hale, riddled with guilt, forced himself to look inside and find the reason to all of this madness. To find his answers, he must question his primary source of belief, the Bible. He wonders whether his interpretation of the Bible was correct. If the court isn t always just, and an ordained Reverend (Parris) cares more about himself than his purpose of spreading God s word, then how can Hale take anything as the truth? His doubt is evident in the quotation, for it may well be God damns a liar less than he that throws his life away for pride. Earlier, the answer would have been simple. Lying is a sin, therefore God damns the liar. Now, Hale questions what he used to take for granted. His confusion leads him to the realization that not everything is straightforward; there are colors between the black and white.
Through the character of Reverend Hale, Miller attempts to prove that not everything was as it appeared. Hale s internal struggle parallels the sentiment of the era, and reveals Miller s desire for change. The attitude of the fifties was to view the world in black and white. You were either anti-Communist or you were Communist. The groups in between were associated with and chastised to the same extent as the true Communists. No one took the time to recognize that the truth lay beyond the superficial