In 1887, Lord Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This statement holds true for many occurrences in history. For example, Adolph Hitler abused his power and tried to change the world. He sought more and more power, ultimately winding up a corrupt and very unpopular man. Arthur Miller’s The Crucible explores how power is dealt with in Puritan-run seventeenth century Massachusetts. Danforth, Abigail, Cheever, and Parris all use their authority wrongfully in their judgement of Proctor. The overwhelming allotment of power to Danforth, Abigail, Cheever, and Parris is abused and directly leads to the pitfall in the life of John Proctor.
Reverend Parris is the first man whose misuse of competence hinders Proctor. Parris’ dislike for Proctor is quite obvious from the get-go. During a meeting at a Salem courthouse, Parris is involved in a discussion with Proctor, Mary, and the court authorities. Parris says, “All innocent and Christian people are happy for the courts in Salem! These people are gloomy for it.
To Danforth- And I think you will want to know, from each and every one of them, what discontents them with you!” Danforth replies, “I think they ought to be examined, sir.” (94) Danforth willingly goes along with Parris’ idea of having all the contributors of the testimonies put through a questioning process. Danforth’s decision is solely based on Parris’ credible position as a reverend. Parris relies on that to be heard in his outcries against John Proctor. Quite clearly, he constructs his whole credibility around his title as “reverend.” This is a simple infringement on his duties as a holy man. He harnesses this in a maleficent manner to hurt Proctor.
A damaging blow is now struck against Proctor’s reputation. “Such a Christian that will not come to church but once in a month!” Parris says. “Not come to church?” (90) Danforth questions. Parris pulls in his power so he may communicate with Danforth. Danforth would not listen to just a simple old man. If he did, he surely would not take it into consideration.
Parris looks for any way that he could preach against Proctor. He takes advantage of his position in the clergy. If a priest were talking to a man, would the man turn and walk away? No. For that same reason, Danforth follows up on Parris’ examination about attending church. In just a few short contributions, Parris manages to alter Danforth’s opinion on Proctor.
Parris uses his place in society to put a damper on the Proctor’s future. Danforth is also bitten by this pattern of abuse. Danforth is a big-time deputy-governor that is appalled at any possible attempt to undermine his strength. Danforth sees any deviation from his personal views as a direct threat to his capacities.
Therefore, the very thought of Proctor doubting the system, its prior dealings, or even discussing godlessness is enough reason for Danforth to try and limit Proctor. “Is that document a lie? If it is a lie I will not accept it! What you say? I will not deal in lies, Mister! You will give me your honest confession in my hand, or I cannot keep you from the rope. Which way do you go, Mister? Marshall!” (144) Danforth realizes how Proctor toiled with him. He takes this as an insult to his court. Acting quickly on this, he calls for the marshal to gather up John and take him to his death.
Danforth is too big of a man to have Proctor spreading chaos around. In retaliation, he condemns John to death, supremely expressing his power. He cannot stand to have his authority doubted or viewed under the skeptical eye. In the end, he finishes Proctor’s life over a little bit of disagreement concerning religion and purpose. Surely this is a most extreme punishment administered by a threatened man.
It holds the greatest effect on Proctor’s life. It is the ending of his life. “Hang them high over the town! Who weeps for these, weeps for corruption!” (144) Now Danforth uses Proctor as an example of someone that questioned him. Truthfully, it is he that is corrupt. He built up all the power and now cannot stand to see any of it disappear.
By holding high the body, he believes he wi! ll be observed as a more powerful man to the people. The search for strength inundates Danforth. His corruption forced Proctor’s death. Had Danforth not been so concerned with his potency, Proctor’s life may have been spared. Instead, Danforth was stubborn and valued his prowess more than Proctor. Rather, Danforth categorically ended all outside threats with his removal of Proctor.
He preserved his precious power. This corruption by Danforth clearly had a profound effect on Proctor’s downfall. Abigail can be found at the root to this whole dilemma. Abigail initiates the controversy with her accusations toward others.
Elizabeth, “Am I accused? . . .Who accused me? . . . She wants me dead.
I knew it all week it would come to this.” (60-61) Elizabeth discovers her name was thrown into the mix of witches. Instantly, she knows who it was. Abigail is the accuser and just created the start to a devastating problem. Abigail was able to get this across due to her young, nave reputation. Not to mention, she used her spot as a relative to Parris to be heard by everyone.
By being a trusted member of Parris’ family, there was no choice but to listen to her as she gave out names. Abby abused her relationship with Parris in order to denounce Elizabeth in an elaborate scheme to get back with John. This is a very dirty act that stems from her ability to connive her Uncle Parris. Abby mistreats that privilege and creates havoc on Proctor and his wife.
“The girl, the Williams girl, Abigail Williams, sir. She sat to dinner in Reverend Parris’ house tonight, and without word nor warnin’ she falls to the floor. Like a struck beast, he says, and screamed a scream that a bull would weep to her. And he goes to save her, and stuck two inches in the flesh of her belly, he draw a needle out. And demandin’ of her how she come to be so stabbed, she-testify it were your wife’s familiar spirit pushed it in.” (74) This is a great time for Abby to pull a stunt like this.
She is eating dinner with her unsuspecting, reverend uncle. Undoubtedly does he believe her story about the poppet. Abby uses acts of harm against her to incriminate Elizabeth. Of course Parris will get to the bottom of it.
After all, he does not care for Proctor, and he knows his niece has been hurt. This just gives him reason to go for them. Abby is aware of this quarrel between Parris and Proctor. She knew what she was doing in constructing this gargantuan mess.
Because of Abby sparking this fire around her Uncle Parris, the situation is believed to be genuine and strongly against Elizabeth. This is a great move for Abby to get the upper hand in the whole situation. She mistreated her relation to Parris in order to eliminate Elizabeth from the picture. This drastic maneuver leads into a bottomless pit that ends with Proctor’s death. Finally, Cheever is remotely affected by his sudden, but small gift of ju! risdiction.
Cheever does not play the largest role. However, one may look upon him as a shallow man that changed as he became a court assistant. “Why, this go hard with her, Proctor, this-I had my doubts. Proctor, I had my doubts, but here’s calamity.” (74) It’s a little funny how Cheever has gone from their little friend to a backstabbing pipsqueak.
He used to tend to his own affairs. However, now that he is working for the courts, he feels he should intervene with everything. He turns the attack dogs on Proctor. Cheever thinks that his new job allows him to hold opinions with substance.
But really, he has no significance in the final say whether Proctor is a good or a bad man. Cheever tries to demand more respect as a result of that. Rather that being a normal guy, as he was, Cheever’s position has conned him into being an enemy on Proctor’s journey. “You’ve heard that, sir! Ripped out of the world!.
. . You’ve ripped the Deputy governor’s warrant, man!” (76-77) Cheeve! r is an obstacle in the way of Proctor. He keeps trying to put a power trip on Proctor. A major attitude adjustment has overtaken Cheever since his work began for the courts.
Cheever attempts to misuse his power and condemn Proctor himself. His exaggeration of work duties causes a disturbance for Proctor on his way to proving his innocence. Proctor dealt with many hurdles during his valiant attempt to turn a wrong into a right. However, in the end, they wore him down. He lost the battle as well as his life.
On the other hand, he helped pave the way for religious freedom in the Unite States. The mishandling of the great power in Danforth, Abigail, Parris, and Cheever all contributed to the extreme outcome of John Proctor’s trek. He rode the wave as long as he could, but all long waves hit the beach eventually. Proctor may be looked at as a pioneer in the developing of religious freedom in America.
He was like many that have died fighting for their beliefs, such as the Chinese students at Tiennemen square, or blacks caught up in racial wars and protest in segregated America. Without these kind of strong people, where would the world be today?