Circumstances cause adaptation. Drastic circumstances cause drastic adaptation. The Salem witch trials of 1692 were definitely drastic circumstances. Society’s hysteria, greed, and vengeance led to accusations that changed many lives, even changed some of those lives to death. Elizabeth Proctor, Reverend John Hale, and John Proctor were three characters that were altered during Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.
Elizabeth Proctor is a kind, intelligent, almost joyless woman that has evidently been ill in the past. Around her husband, she is virtually nervous and replies to his questions and statements quickly to please him. In their discussions, her suspicion of his honesty is brought to question, but she draws back hastily due to her still unwavering loyalty to her husband. When Rev. Hale visits the Proctor home to challenge their Christianity, she is defensive but clear in proving to Hale that she runs a Christian household. Later, when Cheever comes with a warrant to take her, Elizabeth is outraged and knows the reason she is being charged, Abigail! “The girl is murder! She must be ripped out of the world!” However, she calms and submits to go to the court and says “she will fear nothing.” The change takes place while in prison. Through the experience she is even more strong-willed and compassionate. At the end when she speaks with her husband, she shows love and is sorry she kept a cold house. “John, …no honest love could come to me…I never knew how I should say my love. It were a cold house I kept!” The transformation made her an even more positive woman.
Reverend John Hale’s metamorphosis was perhaps the most eminent. He is initially viewed as an arrogant, erudite minister that has all the answers. “He is nearing forty, a tight-skinned, eagar-eyed, intellectual.” He is proud that he has been called as an expert on witches. He quickly finds, however, that his books are not as equipped as he thought. One good quality of Rev. Hale at the beginning is that he is an outsider. He has no bonds of friendship or personal disputes with any townspeople. He does, though cling to and defend the court. To get to know the people better, especially the ones mentioned in court, he interrogates them to bring out the truth. The scene when Cheever takes Elizabeth is where Hale starts to pivot from darkness to light. It is not until Act III, though; he realizes the dishonesty of the ‘precious’ girls. Reverend Hale “denounced the proceedings, and quit the court.” He knew he was wrong and that he signed innocent people’s death warrants. He tries to save the accused by urging them to confess, but it is too late. His change might have been lucrative if he would have been swifter.
The protagonist, some what of a tragic hero, is John Proctor. Proctor is “a farmer in his middle thirties” who is ” powerful of body, even-tempered, and not easily led.” Although he isn’t rich, he still demands, and is shown, respect in Salem. Often, Proctor stays home Sunday to aid his wife and to avoid Abigail Williams. His relationship with Abigail is one of shame and guilt. Abigail is still ” in love,” but says ” I will cut off my hand before I reach for you again. Wipe it out of mind.” Proctor’s change was his self-perception. Introspectively, he views himself as a fraud. Ever since his affair with Abigail he knows he is a sinner. He will not let himself be forgiven, even from God. At the end of the play, he agrees to confess to being ” the Devil’s man.” Proctor states ” I cannot mount the gibbet like a saint. It is a fraud. I am not that man.” Proctor does not think he is good enough to die with Rebecca Nurse and the other “saints.” While he is signing the confession, however, he realizes his mistake. He does not want his name ruined, like a blacklisted Communist. He finally comes to the conclusion that he is a good man. He decides to take back the confession and dies triumphantly. His change was from an unforgiven fraud to an unashamed, fortitude.
Though in nature, adaptation usually leads to survival, this is not the case in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. However, truly living was found in dying for the beliefs of the individuals. These changes of character in the characters can be viewed as positive in the conclusion.