Leadership and morality in The Crucible
“He has an idea of himself which is that of a leader of a sort, a moral example, perhaps, for others… ” Examine the importance of leadership and morality in The Crucible. The ideas of leadership and morality are extremely important in Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible. The quote by Arthur Miller, “He has an idea of himself which is that of a leader of a sort, a moral example, perhaps, for others… ” could apply to a number of the male characters in the play, and is also applicable to a number of the female characters in the female.
Leadership is defined in the dictionary as “guidance and direction” and morality as “motivation bases on ideas of right and wrong”. They are both very important in The Crucible, and are commonly emphasized with negative actions and ideas. Several characters in the play show leadership over others, and many undergo immoral actions and activities. Miller says of Parris, “He has an idea of himself which is that of a leader of a sort, a moral example, perhaps, for others… “.
He has authority over the strongly religious town of Salem, yet he uses his power for personal gain, which is not only against his religion but is extremely immoral. He uses his power to condemn innocent men who may threaten his position in the future and who he has a dislike for. For a Reverend he has a severe lack of morality, with his incessant greed and quest for personal gain. John Proctor is most interesting for the moral choice that he has to make, whether to lie and save himself or to tell the truth and save his conscience.
Although he has been immoral and sinned by having an affair, he makes the right choice by telling the truth. He knows that he is a sinner and is not worthy of following in Giles and Rebecca Nurse’s footsteps of being a martyr, but he tries to do what he believes to be right and what will be best for his family. The audience feels sympathetic for Proctor as he is hanged, as he has made the correct moral choice and died telling the truth. He asks “How may I live with my name? ” just before tearing up his confession, stating that it is more important to tell the truth and keep his good name than to lie and live with a blackened name.
As well as Proctor and Parris, many of the other characters in the play have moral choices to make and chances to show morality, yet many lie for personal gain or to save themselves. Without doubt the least moral person in the play is Abigail Williams. She lies at every possible chance in order to save herself and get revenge on those that she dislikes. She condemns innocent people which ultimately results in their death, yet has no conscience or feelings for those that she has hurt.
Although she knows that there has be no actual witchcraft, yet continues with the idea in order to save herself and attack others. She makes a number of allegations against other women, “I saw Alice Barrows with the devil” being one example of her condemning and innocent person. Elizabeth, Hale, Danforth, Giles Corey and Rebecca Nurse all also have the chance to show their morality, yet only Giles and Rebecca are the only two in the whole play who come out of it as truly good people with excellent morality. They both do not give in by admitting to something that they have done, and both die as martyrs.
Corey continues to tell the truth until the moment he dies, as he is crushed to death by his immoral torturers. He says “more weight” when given the option to confess of to continue with the torture, this being his final heroic act. Rebecca also dies a martyrs death, as she also continues to tell the truth knowing that she is going to die. These are the only two that show true morality and goodness. Although we feel sympathy for Hale when he finally realizes the mistake he has made, his lack of moral courage means that we can not admire or respect him.
He is the one that starts the witch hunts, but eventually realises that his original assumptions were incorrect and endeavours to save the innocent townspeople. He tries to persuade them to admit to a crime that they had not done, which in its self is immoral, so that their lives may be spared. Some agree and are spared, but those with moral values continue to tell the truth and die for there beliefs. Elizabeth also has a moral choice, by lying to save her husband or telling the truth and leaving him in trouble.
She lies in an attempt to save him, but this backfires as she discovers that he has already confessed to the crime, which ultimately condemns him. Leadership is another key aspect of The Crucible, and Abigail Williams is probably the most significant leader in the play. After discovering that she now has power over others, she exploits it for personal gain and to gain revenge on anyone that she believes has acted against her. She persuades the girls to admit to the crime so that they will not be punished, and to claim that others have been involved with the devil.
She also threatens others into following her. John Proctor is a natural born leader, and organises opposition towards the church. He tries to persuade others to do the right thing and stand up against evil and continue to tell the truth, no matter what the consequences are. He realises what he needs to do, to save his own and others moral consciences, and takes a leading role in trying to help others. When Hale arrives he has an heir of authority and sense of leadership. His books are “weighted with authority” and people listened to what he had to say because of his authority.
He then questions his own beliefs when he discovers that everything is not as he first believed. He loses his faith in his religion and the law, as he sees innocent people being executed for crimes that they have not committed. By the end his leaderships qualities are non-existent, and he is not half the man he used to be. Parris is similar to Hale, not just because he is also a Reverend, but because he has authority which makes people believe that what he is saying is the truth and is right.
Parris use his leadership over others for personal gain, and only cares about his personal welfare. This may have had something to do with his background, as he used to be a tradesman in Barbados, which may explain his continued quest for personal gain. Danforth is another that has authority and therefore leadership over others. He has the power to sentence people to death, and so people will listen to what he has to say and respect his ideas. The other girls in the play are all easily led, as they follow Abigail’s lead in saving themselves and attacking other innocent people.
This is especially true for Mary Warren, as she as good as sentences him to death when he claims that “there is a black man behind your right shoulder”. In conclusion, leadership and morality are extremely important in The Crucible. They are the basis of the lies that result in the death of 19 innocent people. Many people have moral choices to make, whether to save themselves by lying or telling the truth and facing the possibility of death. Many leaders also appear from the tragic events, with actions as well as negatives. These exciting aspects lead to an ultimately gripping play.
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