“He have goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!” What leads Elizabeth Proctor to make this powerful and disturbing comment on her husband’s decision and why do you think Miller lets these words bring the play to an end? I think Miller ends the play with these words to show that Elizabeth has forgiven John of his adultery and that John has finally after a lot of mistakes made the right moral decision- which has given him back his ”goodness”.
The word goodness has many different meanings. Its first meaning is the state or quality of being good. The second is generosity or kindness; the third meaning is moral excellence, piety, or virtue. The fourth meaning is a euphemism for God: used as an exclamation of surprise (not relevant to this) and the final meaning is ‘what is good in something; essence. Different definitions of goodness can be applied to different characters within the Saleum community: For Reverend Hale it may mean moral excellence as he takes on the role of a judge in court. For Elizabeth Proctor it would be appropriate in several ways because she has unshakable religious faith (piety), is honest, never lies, leads a moral life following the ten commandments but stands in judgment on her husband.
For John Proctor he is basically a moral man, despises greed (i.e. Reverend Parris demand to own the preachers house), he is rational rather than superstitious, works hard, speaks his mind but has allowed all of his ”goodness” to be influence by his guilt over his adultery with Abigail Williams. For Abigail Williams the only form of goodness that would have applied to her would have been the ‘purity’ she lost to John Proctor. Rebecca Nurse is described as religious, noble, kindly, pure, and quite saintly so if I were to pick someone in saleum with “goodness” it would be her. All the other characters, which have some form of goodness, also have another side to them.
Arthur Miller chose to write a realistic play about the Salem witch hunt trials of 1692 in a time when the McCarthy trials were taking place in America (this was the imprisonment of suspected communists). The hysteria and persecution of the two events are on a parallel so the audience that the crucible was written for would understand the underlying emotions and the play also gave Miller (a left winger) a platform to knock the ‘Red-Hunt’ I find it hard to understand how adults could be whipped into a witch-hunt frenzy based upon the lies of hysterical young girls but if we look at the Salem in more detail, it gives us some answers.
Salem was a small insular community developed on a theocracy (a combination of state and religious power), which was designed to keep the community together and prevent disunity by the influence of outside forces. The puritanical way of life based on the bible was very strict and rigid. They were very religious, had to know the Ten Commandments and go to church, but did not celebrate Christmas. Forms of enjoyment such as dancing were forbidden and there was not very much freedom for the individual. The overall effect of living in such a repressed community was that they were fearful of the unknown and outside world and the subsequent witch-hunt released the undercurrent of emotions that had been kept under control.
John and Elizabeth did not have an easy relationship. It is firstly crushed by Elizabeth’s illness, which leaves her bed bound and unable to perform “a wife’s duties” which meant they had to employ a servant – Abigail Williams (a malicious girl who lacks morality and has no respect for the values and rules of the community). The first time John and Elizabeth are seen together in the play at the beginning of Act 1 their conversation is stilted, they are not at ease with each other, but John is trying to please Elizabeth (is this guilt or affection?). Elizabeth is distant and cold as shown -‘He gets up goes to her, kisses her. She receives it. With a certain disappointment, he returns to the table’. “It is winter in here yet”