‘You should surely know that Cain were an upright man, yet he did kill Abel. ‘ The fact that he is using the bible to try and get someone hanged, paralleled with the fact that he is using the trials to gain money and a reputation anyway, clearly shows the religious hypocrisy in this event. Parris himself, like Putnam, is using the trials for personal gain, under the cover of righteousness, because if the court falls apart, he will lose his reputation and probably his occupation as reverend, so he strives to uphold it, even if it results in the death of innocents.
The strict religion of Puritanism forces upholders of the Social order like Judge Danforth into thinking in ‘black and white’, such as good or evil, capitalist or communist. In this case you’re either with the court, or against it, devoutly religious, or submerged in the devils work. This being true means that any slight deviation from the Puritan doctrine or any slight questioning of the court associates you with the devils work, thus sealing you the fate of death.
Miller realises the importance of one’s reputation in theocratic Salem, and that townsfolk in Salem must have feared that the sins of their neighbours and friends will taint their own reputation. Many characters base their actions on the desire to protect their respective reputations. In Act 3, Proctor is fighting with the decision of whether to bring down his reputation by exposing his secret sin of infidelity, but thus hopefully ending the girls’ reign of terror, or to keep his reputation, but resulting in the deaths of many innocents.
Miller uses stage directions in this act to emphasise the struggle between Proctor and his reputation. ‘(laughs insanely, then): … You are pulling down heaven and raising up a whore! ‘ When Danforth asks Proctor for a confession at the end of Act 3, Proctor casts away his reputation, partnered with the black humour stage direction of an insane laugh, showing the stupidity and almost ironically laughable nature of the witch trials which Proctor cannot quite fathom, he implores wildly to the heavens, asking for some sanity in the town of Salem.
He has not, however, traded his name for his life yet at this stage, because he has not confessed to the lie of his binding to the devil. ‘Whore! Whore! … she is a lump of vanity… it is a whores vengeance. ‘ This statement by Proctor pulls Proctors reputation to its knees in shame, and finally exposes the sin Proctor has been harnessing for many guilty days, in a last desperate attempt to end the madness in Salem. He exposes his private life to scrutiny, but it is too late, because too many influential people had invested energy and their reputations into the proceedings for it to be stopped.
Too many reputations had been established, and for Proctor’s statement to be true, would ruin their reputation, which was not to be. He tries to save his wife and the other innocent prisoners, but fails to do so, and is defeated by reputation. ‘The girls, sir, the girls are frauds. ‘ This is the statement which Danforth refuses to believe, because he refuses to believe that he is being tricked by children. He is only concerned with people daring to question his and the court’s authority.
If he was to admit that he had been tricked by children, his reputation would be blemished for life, because the town would see that the trial that was supposed to be supported by God was a fraud, and because Danforth was the leader of the court, he would be condemned to a bad reputation and to the guilt of hanging innocents. Blame and accusations are important in this play, because it is on blame alone that victims are accused and sentenced, and on which the whole court system relies.
Even before the confines of the courtroom, there is a chorus of indictments that set the scene for the hysteria of the witch trials. The entire with trial system relies on and thrives from accusations and blame-blame is the only way that witches can be identified and executed. The justice of the court is based on individuals blaming each other. ‘We must rely upon her victims’ As Danforth says, the sole evidence that the court uses to arrest the innocent townsfolk of Salem is the ‘victim’s’ testimony, and whoever they care to blame.
The stage directions that Miller uses of the apparitions of the wind and the yellow bird are used by Abigail and the girls as diversionary tactics to shift the focus and blame to Mary, who is trying to speak against them, who in turn, uses it to blame Proctor. As usual, this is the only evidence needed by the court to arrest Proctor for being a witch-just the sole verbal blame from one little girl, which has the power to throw someone in jail with a death sentence. ‘He’s come to overthrow this court… this is a clear attack upon the court’.
Throughout this act Parris is blaming Proctor for an attack on the court, and for an attempt to undermine it. The dramatic device used here is the accusatory delivery of his lines throughout the act. He is trying his utmost to sway Judge Danforth and to throw Proctor off course, but is eventually silenced. The stage direction of Parris breaking a sweat frequently is used by Miller to emphasise the anxiety Parris is feeling- that the blame that is being perpetuated against the court, and, indirectly, him, may be slipping out of his control.
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