Reputation is the estimation or name of being, having, having done, something specified by the general opinion of either a private or public group of people. In Arthur Miller’s screenplay, The Crucible, Miller presents his opinions on the factual truth of the Salem Witch Trials. Various events in Arthur Miller’s screenplay reveal the theme of reputation as being a leading force in the developing plotlines of the story. By doing this, he brings a whole new point of view to the readers of his screenplay.
Reputation was extremely important at the time, as in a town like Salem where social standing was tied to one’s ability to follow religious rules. If you had a good reputation, you were more likely to be an upright member of the church and a good Christian. In Puritan times being religious and following the rules of God meant everything. The reputations of many characters in the crucible including Abigail, John Proctor and Reverend Parris were defined by the many actions and dialogues throughout the play, the Crucible.
A dialogue from Abigail reveals Arthur Millers’ insights on the role of reputation in the society of Salem. Abigail states, “I want to open myself! I want the light of God; I want the sweet love of Jesus! I danced for the Devil; I saw him, I wrote in his book; I go back to Jesus; I kiss His hand. I saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw Goody Osburn with the Devil! I saw Bridget Bishop with the Devil! ” (Miller Act I) This quote from Abigail raises her position in society. By Abigail, doing this, the other girls follow; believing this will raise them also in the social ranking of their society.
After hearing Tituba confess to witchcraft, Abigail sees this as an opportunity to get herself out of the spotlight, even though she was with the other girls in the forest. After clearing her name, she wanted to move the blame on, she starts accusing falsely the other people of being witches. When this was done, the other girls followed because of the success she had. These girls all cared about their reputation. With their reputation, they believe it is a way out from being trailed as a witch, as everyone else in Salem wishes to do.
Abigail caused enough trouble in the court room ruining others reputations in order to save her own, but at the same time risks her own reputation. John Proctor, a farmer who lives outside the town had an affair with Abigail who is just a teenager early on in the screenplay, and is frightened to expose such a thing; he is afraid his name will be ruined. Earlier on in the play, Proctor has a chance to put a stop to the girls being accused of witchcraft; instead he sought to preserve his reputation from testifying against Abigail and revealing his scandalous affair.
Towards the end of the play The Crucible, Proctors desire to keep and maintain his good name; leads him to make a courageous choice, by not giving into a faulty confession which leads to his death. Proctor says to Danforth, “I have given you my soul; leave me my name! ” (Miller Act IV) This quote shows that by Proctor refusing to give up or surrender his name and reputation, he redeems himself for his earlier failure and dies with integrity. John Proctor confirms his decision saying to himself in Act IV that he has given his soul and wants to at least keep his name.
Proctor gives his last orders as to not destroy his name, because his name means so much to him. He would rather die than live with the rest of the town knowing that he was convicted of seeing the devil and being a witch. In Act II, Proctor says to Putnam, “You cannot command Mr. Parris. We vote by name in this society, not by acreage. ” This quote demonstrates what a big role a person’s name in the society brings to the rest of the town of Salem. Acreage, money or land is usually a way to critique a person, but in Salem, someone’s name or part in society is what they are held as in the eyes of the people.
If you have a good reputation then you stand high in the town, but if your reputation is bad and you are convicted of being a witch, that could damage your reputation and status severely. In Act II, Parris says, “Abigail, I have fought here three long years to bend these stiff-necked people to me, and now, just now when some good respect is rising for me in the parish, you compromise my very character. I have given you a home, child, I have put clothes upon your back- now give me upright answer. Your name in the town- it is entirely white, is it not?
This quote proves that once Parris’s authority started to increase, Abigail, his niece had to start trouble, causing many people to look at Parris differently and, causing his power in the society to decrease. Reputation led the Crucible’s many characters to resort to various actions and lies to retain their own character. The pressure of society put forth on the characters, caused a chain reaction of lie and deceit that caused the death of many people. The screenplay the Crucible, was therefore wrought with the theme of reputation as a leading factor in the development of the plotline and story.