A Belief System- The Crucible


After reading The Crucible by Arthur Miller, one cannot help but wonder why when given the chance to confess to the accusations and live, did the characters choose to stay firm and die? For people today that question is not easily answered. In the past however, this was not a question at all. The answer was found within the strong religious background that most of the accused were raised on, and the feeling of pride and honor they felt in their hearts. John Proctor exemplifies the importance of a strong name through his actions and choices throughout the play; most significantly the fourth act when he chose death over disgracing his name. Giles Corey's refusal to reveal the name of the informant who accused Putnam of conspiracy also shows the role of justice in these individuals' lives, letting God be the judge of their actions in life and not their peers. Sometimes you have to stand for more. Throughout the play one of the central themes continues to be John Proctor's, Giles Corey's, and Rebecca Nurse's refusal to degrade their souls with lies of confession only to save themselves from the unjust accusations of witchcraft.
In this time and era the people living in and around Salem, Massachusetts were from Puritan faith and lived very strict lives. At this point in history there was still no separation between church and state, so the church had a major role in each individual's life. When Reverend Parris came upon the children of Salem dancing and conducting against their religion, they were accused of being in a pact with the devil by many of the town's people in the beginning. Rumors spread, and innocent people were charged of witchcraft. Some of the accused were, in every aspect, a perfect Puritan. Rebecca Nurse was one of these individuals. She was held in high opinion by almost everyone, except for Ann Putnam, who blamed her for the unexplained deaths of her seven children Rebecca had delivered. Ann Putnam claimed that Rebecca sent her ?spirit? out on them. At one point there was even a testament signed and proposed in court declaring many people's good opinion of Goody Nurse. Giles Corey was an old, strong-willed man, accused of witchery. After trying to disprove the faulty actions of the court and refusing to give up the name of his informant he was killed. Proctor was accused of witchcraft while trying to defend his wife, and was then later executed when he refused to slander his name. These three proud individuals did not want to confess to the lies they were accused of doing only to save their lives. For what is a name when you have no soul to go with it? That is what these individuals faced.
The religious background of these individuals was the cause of their refusal to confess to the accusations toward them. Both Giles Corey and John Proctor believed in letting God be the judge of their faults. When Giles Corey refused to answer to his indictment in order to preserve his land's ownership for his family, he was trusting in a higher power, God, even when death was his punishment. Proctor also felt this way, and when arguing with Danforth about his confession of adultery, he turned to God as his judge when he said, I have confessed myself! Is there no good penitence but it be public? God does not need my name nailed upon the church! God sees my name; God knows how black my sins are! It is enough! (4.132). These two individuals lost hope in the justice system that ruled their lives here on earth, so instead they decided to put their trust in their religious background and their belief in God as the definitive judge.
Times have changed since the era in which John, Giles, and Rebecca lived. During the Salem witch trials confessing to a lie to save your life was an option many people chose, others did not out of a sense of pride and honor. John Proctor was the perfect example of this. He had self-respect, particularly for his name. After verbally admitting his sin, Danforth wished for him to sign his name on a document, which would be displayed in public as evidence