In The Crucible, a play written by Arthur Miller set during the Salam witch trials of the 1690’s, the well-known witchcraft expert Reverend Hale serves as an living guideline for major aspects in life, specifically pride, integrity, and redemption. All three of these themes affect Hale’s thoughts and actions that lead to his downfall. By responding in the way that he did to situations, Hale shows how events can go downhill even if one tries one’s hardest. The tragic fate of the Reverend can be found in the fact that his pride blinded him from the truth, compromising his integrity and costing him his redemption. Hale’s fall is a clear example of Miller’s ideas on how pride can lead to actions and thoughts that compromise one’s integrity, preventing one from achieving redemption.
The first aspect that greatly affects Hale’s fate is pride. Throughout The Crucible, pride has played a major role, especially for Hale. When Hale first arrives to Salem, he is very proud in his abilities and knowledge of witchcraft, carrying himself with confidence and trusting his abilities. He stands firm in his trust of the court when others do not, too proud to admit that he might be wrong in his trust. For instance, when Elizabeth Proctor, the wife of John Proctor, is arrested on charges of witchcraft and attempted murder, he attempts to calm John Proctor, a very fiery and stern man of the town, twice by saying “Proctor, if she is innocent, the court-” (Miller, 1283) and “Proctor, the court is just-” (1283), though his protests fall on deaf ears. Hale’s pride is so strong and misplaced in the fairness of the court’s decisions that he cannot see what Proctor sees clear as day, that Elizabeth is innocent. As Hale is trying to placate Proctor, his pride does not allow him to doubt that the court could be morally corrupt. This denial is what ultimately leads to his downfall. By putting his pride first and mindlessly believing what he wants to believe, Hale compromises his integrity, leading to his eventual loss of redemption.
Hale’s compromised integrity stems from his decision to place his pride before his finding the truth. As the play progresses, the effect of Hale’s hubris on his declining integrity is clearly seen. He refuses to accept that the court may not be totally just, even though at one point, Proctor asks Hale, shortly after Elizabeth’s arrest, “There are them that will swear to anything before they’ll hang; have you never thought of that?” (1279) to which Hale replies “I-I have indeed.” (1279). This admission of doubt is the first sign in Hale’s fading conviction in himself. By denying what has been clear to others, the fact that the accused victims are innocent, Hale proves that he is beginning to realize that he finds fault with the court system. However, acceptance of this fact would mean two things. The first is that many innocent people have been unfairly executed and jailed. The second is that he was unable to follow his conscience and instead allowed himself to blindly trust in the court. These two reasons lead to his downfall and eventually, his loss of redemption.
Redemption is the final aim of Hale; through his actions, he is never able to achieve redemption for himself or others, though doing so is his main goal. After realizing that he has failed not only as a witchcraft expert but as a truthful person, indicated by his overbearing pride and compromised integrity, Hale takes off into the wilderness to find his salvation, telling no one until his return: “Goody Proctor, I have gone this three month like our Lord into the wilderness. I have sought a Christian way, for damnation’s doubled on a minister who counsels men to lie.” (1326). Upon returning, Hale recognizes the mistakes he has made and intends to fix them as best he can. He is aware that he can never completely correct all the wrongs that he has committed on account of his actions but he aims to save all that he can. By giving up his own chance at redemption and finally overcoming his pride, Hale believes he can save Proctor, Rebecca, Giles, and the other accused victims of witchcraft. However, these victims would rather cling to their moral integrity and die innocent victims than lie and live. This leaves Hale in the position of offering help to those who do not want it. With this outcome, Hale must accept that he cannot achieve the redemption he had worked and hoped for.
Hale is undeniably one of the most important characters in The Crucible. He provides a clear example of Miller’s thoughts on certain topics. Through Hale, Miller shows us that pride and compromised integrity lead to downfall and inability to achieve redemption. The main lesson to be learned, however, is the importance of listening to one’s conscience. The entirety of The Crucible ties into this central theme. If Hale had acted upon his conscience, The Crucible may have had a completely different ending.