In Arthur Miller's, "The Crucible," set in the year 1692, the small Massachusetts village of Salem is filled with rumors of witchcraft. The word crucible means a hard test or severe trial. Lives and personalities are shaped by the trials we face as we go through life. Elizabeth Proctor, John Proctor, and Reverend John Hale undergo growth and personal changes as they experience the Salem witch trials.
Elizabeth Proctor is the conscientious, somewhat rigid, honest wife of John Proctor. She is hurt by his infidelity with Abigail Williams, and finds it hard to understand and forgive. She goes about household duties with a wounded air and arouses her husband's anger with her cold, unforgiving manner. Cruel imprisonment results in her becoming wiser and more understanding. She comes to appreciate John Proctor's goodness, where she previously saw only betrayal. She accepts her portion of the responsibility for the state of their marriage.
Elizabeth: John, I counted myself so plain; so poorly made, no honest love could come to me! Suspicion kissed you when I did; I never knew how I should say my love. It were a cold house I kept! (p. 131) Elizabeth realizes she can't tell her husband what to do when asked if he should confess. She knows he must settle matters with his own conscience.
Elizabeth: I am not your judge, I cannot be. As though giving him release: Do as you will, do as you will! (p. 132) She knows John must obtain some peace of soul even if it means death. In the end she recognizes John's heroism and lovingly supports him in his decision. John Proctor is a confident, vigorous, young farmer who wants to avoid any involvement in the Salem witch trials. He hesitates to speak openly to expose Abigail as a fraud because it would condemn himself as a lecher.
When his wife is arrested he tries dauntlessly to free her. He realizes that a man can't escape the activities of society. When Mary Warren's deposition fails to free his wife he takes the final step and denounces Abigail as a " whore." This results in him being charged with witchcraft. He is caught in a moral dilemma involving not only his fate, but also that of his wife, his friends, and the Salem community.
John Proctor attempts to preserve his own life, but he can't see himself as a saint. He asks, "God in heaven, what is John Proctor, what is John Proctor?' (p. 132) The answer he finds is that John Proctor can't live with the lie, so he will die by his own choice of right and honesty. Reverend John Hale arrives in Salem an earnest, scholar believing he can restore peace and order in Salem. He is strong and confident of his views. He supports the authority of church to search out and punish all enemies of the church.
He knows that Elizabeth Proctor is innocent when she is arrested, but he is unable to stand up to the authority of the court at that time. Hale has faith in the honesty and integrity of John Proctor and sees the accusation of Abigail is made at the expense of his own reputation. He now starts to assert his own views of matters. Hale, to Parris, trying to contain himself: Is every defense an attack upon the court? Can no one-? (p.
89) Hale sees the power that Abigail has can lead to nothing but chaos and desolation. When John Proctor is arrested for witchcraft, Hale finds his courage. "I denounce these proceedings, I quit this court!" (p. 115) Hale reappears as the voice of practicality.
Recognizing his own folly he urges the condemned to confess to save their lives. He denies his own principles and encourages unholy compromise. He is left in a state of guilt and misery with the outcome of the trials. The crucibles each person experience help them gain insight and often change their outlook on life.
Elizabeth Proctor gains confidence in herself and the love she shares with her husband. John Proctor realizes his integrity is extremely important. He cannot, even to save his own life, deny all that he believes in. John Hale comes to realize he had been deluded all the time he took part in the witch-hunts. His work wasn't God's work, but the handiwork of Satan.
Hale and the Proctors faced the challenges of life as best they could. Will you be up for the challenges to overcome the crucibles in your life.