Salem in the late seventeenth century was not just a place of God, but also a place of emerging guilt. Many characters in The Crucible by Arthur Miller, such as Giles Corey, Reverend Hale and John Proctor, struggle with the deep-seated guilt in their hearts. The townspeople’s reaction to the witch trials reveals their guilt and transforms them. Their guilt ultimately contributes to the tragic finale of the Salem Witch Trials.
The bottled up guilt in Salem is slowly gaining momentum amongst the townspeople. Although the townspeople may seem honest and dedicated to god, they are still human and fall prey to sins. The town is morally declining. There are girls dancing in the forest and a corrupt minister who cares more about material possessions than fulfilling his duties. Because of their sins, the townsfolk have guilt and blame others to free themselves of it. People call out names for the witch-hunt on behalf of God; but in reality, they blame others to avoid dealing with their guilt. These accusations make the townspeople turn on their neighbors and friends, ultimately adding to the intensity of the witch trials.
In contrast to the townsfolk, Giles deals with his guilt. He asks Reverend Hale to resolve his curiosity about what his wife Martha might be reading behind his back, but instead rouses the town’s suspicion of Martha being a witch. He says to Hale, “I never said my wife were a witch, Mr. Hale; I only said she were reading books!” (71). Giles feels guilt for being responsible for his wife’s imprisonment and tries to defend her in court. Consequently, Giles refuse to give the name of the man who can substantiate his claim that Putnam is killing his neighbors for their land. If he gives the name, he would have to take on the guilt of selling out his friend. In the end, Giles becomes consumed by the hysteria of the witch trials and dies.
Reverend Hale takes on guilt because of his involvement with the trials. At first, he naïvely believes...