When a conflict arises, many people stand back and watch as their beliefs are trampled on, but sometimes one person will stand up and die for what they believe and inspire all those with similar beliefs. Of the many people who died in the Salem witch trials, one man stands out as a true martyr who died in the pursuit of justice and whose actions served as a model for all the people in Salem. In The Crucible, Arthur Miller portrayed the character of Giles Corey as a martyr through his strong convictions, honesty, concern for justice, and his willingness to die for these causes. Giles Corey, a man of strong beliefs, refused to give the authorities the lie they demanded, therefore, he died a martyr.
Unlike many of the people of Salem, Giles Corey held fast to his strong convictions. When he believed something was wrong, he refused to sit and passively accept the injustice, but instead notified the authorities and demanded a fair trial. When his wife was being wrongly accused of witchcraft, Giles stood up for her, yelling in court “You’re hearing lies, lies!” (84). Giles is clearly concerned with the truth and frequently pleads with the court to reject the girl’s statements and understand that “they [were] telling lies about [his] wife” (85). Again, he pursues justice when he urges the court to hear Mary Warren confess that she and the other girls had lied. He introduces her by stating “she comes now to tell the truth” (88). Giles Corey demonstrates his strong beliefs through his preoccupation with truth and justice in the witch trials.
Not only was Giles Corey adamant about justice and other people’s truthfulness in the court, but also he showed that he was an honest man and therefore refused to give an untruthful confession. When Proctor was accused of plowing on Sunday, Giles reminded the court that there were “other Christians that do plow on Sunday if the truth be known” (91). Giles again offered honest information to the judges, explaining that he had been “thirty-three time in court” (95). Even if that information made him look bad during his trial, he always felt compelled to tell the truth. Because he had told the truth before and his wife had suffered because of it, Giles refused to speak in court explaining “I mentioned my wife’s name once and I’ll burn in hell long enough for that. I stand mute” (97). Giles never lied, but when he realized that the truth could hurt other people, he simply refused to give any information to the authorities.
Following his strong convictions and refusing to lie, Giles Corey died a martyr, suffering a slow put painful death not for personal reasons but for justice in his community. The only words Giles Corey spoke when they placed the stones on his body and demanded a confession were “More weight,” symbolizing his refusal to lie and his intentions to die in the name of truth (135). Goody Proctor noted that he had remained “mute and died Christian under the law” making him an example in the community and keeping his name clear from guilt so that his children could keep his farm and continue their lives (135). After hearing the news of Giles’ strong character and martyrdom, John Proctor declared that he had to confess because he could not “mount the gibbet like a saint” the way Giles had done (136). Proctor revered Giles for his noble deed and was eventually inspired to give up his own life for the people he loved.
Sometimes it is necessary to die so that beliefs and morals may live on. As a man of strong principles who refused to give in to the authority’s demands to sacrifice truth for a quick solution, Giles Corey died a martyr. He held strong to his belief in the importance of truth and chose to give no statements over one that could potentially condemn a friend, family member, or himself. He was a model for the people of Salem in that he accepted his punishment so that they could rid themselves of the plagues of a town wide witch hunt. When justice is in danger of dying, a human death often seems the only way to save such a cause.
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