Abigail and the group of girls who accuse many citizens of witchcraft serve a society that demands conformity and ruthlessly punishes individuals who resist. In the opening scene, the power Abigail has over the group is evident when she rejects Mary Warren’s proposal that “[the girls] must tell the truth . . . ” threatening to make them “wish [they] had never seen the sun go down” if they reveal the truth. Threats and other pressure from Abigail discourage any opposition to what she says.
Later in the novel, Mary again tries to do what she feels is morally right and overcome the pressures of Abigail and the other girls when she agrees to confess to the untrue accusations on the innocent citizens in Salem. Even with the girls there, Mary gathers up enough courage to explain that she “thought [she] saw [spirits] but . . . did not. ” However, right then, the girls begin to feel ” . . . a wind,” and then suddenly see a “bird . . . stretching her claws. ” Through this scene, the girls appear succeed in showing the court officials that Mary herself is in league with the devil.
By daring to do what she knows is right and opposing Abigail’s group, Mary Warren puts herself in grave danger. Unfortunately, lacking the inner strength of John Procter, and Giles Corey, Mary gives in to the pressure and accuses John of being the “Devil’s man,” revealing not only her weakness in moral integrity but also the way in which society demands conformity, even sometimes to the extent where lives are compensated. Interestingly enough, after Mary gives in to the influence of Abigail and her group, she becomes part of ‘society’ and goes on to punish John Proctor.
Unlike most of the court officials, and the girls, the Christ figures in The Crucible, such as Giles Corey and John Procter, refuse to conform to society’s way of thinking, and, despite horrific persecution, retain their righteousness in the midst of flying accusations. Their morals are pushed to the breaking point, but in the end these characters triumph, even as society sentences them to death. Upon hearing that Elizabeth Procter has been accused by Abigail, John Proctor, who cannot bear to see “that goodness [Elizabeth] … die for me”, promises to “fall like an ocean on that court.
” He takes action against the court and urges Mary Warren to confess that Abigail and the other girls made up their entire story. Later John goes one step further, tarnishing his good name, simply to try to positively change society. His determination to prove that the girls are liars exemplifies his will not to conform. Many people in Salem, Massachusetts believe that the girls do not have the power to condemn, but only a select few speak up. Arthur Miller praises those that step up for attempting to positively change society.
John Proctor, one of these characters who strives to help society, fights an inner struggle between good and evil throughout the novel. An “evil” man, such as John thinks he is, has a hard time with nonconformity since it means death, and only the morally weak would choose to lie to save his life. Conformity, in John’s words, “is evil” but he believes himself to be wicked, so he decides, “good, then-it is evil, and I do [confess]! ” However, before John is sent to be hanged, he finds “some shred of goodness [in myself] … not enough to weave a banner with,” but still enough to withstand the pressures of society.
Even when the persecution from society seems strong enough to bend even the most upright of men, John still prevails. Similarly, Giles Corey, a “canny, inquisitive, and powerful” man, courageously comes to the court to prove that many of the accused were unjustly put in jail, indicted by people acting purely out of self-interest. Since men accused of witchcraft had their land sold to the highest bidder, Giles claims that many in town, including Putnam, only support the trial to try to gain land. Giles fights against this injustice, and his stalwart will keeps him from taking the easy way out, and conforming.
In many ways he agrees with John; he cannot believe that a group of immature, young girls are God’s holy messengers. Another example of Giles’s refusal to give into the demands of society comes when he refuses to name the individual who supplied him with important. evidence simply because he promises this man that he wouldn’t give his name to the court. Even though revealing the identity of that individual would have without doubt helped Giles’s cause in court, as the evidence proved how many are acting out of the desire for land, Giles refuses to go back on his word.