An Exploration of the Fear of Losing Reputation

An exploration of the fear of losing reputation within the Salem Society. Good afternoon, today I will be presenting my IOP. I have chosen to base it upon Arthur Millers’ novel ‘The Crucible’, which references back to the Salem Witch trials in 1692. There are many themes in Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’, like intolerance, empowerment, honor, hysteria and paranoia, legal affairs, such as accusations and confessions as well as several references to McCarthyism. However the theme of reputation was only vaguely explored, but yet, it plays such a big important role in the play. This leads me to my presentation topic. CLICK) Reputation: or to be exact, an exploration of the fear of losing reputation within the Salem Society. In today’s presentation I hope to further explore and develop Arthur Miller’s ideas and interpretations on the loss of reputation. What is Reputation? So first of all what is Reputation. (CLICK) Reputation, as stated by the Oxford Dictionary, is the belief or opinion that is generally held about someone or something, or a widespread belief that someone or something has a particular habit or characteristic. Honor: Before we can isolate reputation, we have to understand that there are a whole lot of things that tie in with reputation.

One of the more obvious ones is honor,(CLICK) or what you know about yourself. There is a direct link between reputation and honor. If one chooses to save his honor or reputation, it will affect the other, negatively in most cases. An example is: Early on in the story John Proctor confessed to having intimate moments with Abigail Williams, therefore tainting his own reputation but doing the thing which is honorable. Confessing. Here, he chose honor over reputation; he’d rather have a clean conscience (what he knew about himself) than a good reputation (what others knew about him).

After being accused of witchcraft, his dilemma was whether to confess to what he did not do or die at the rope. This time he did not confess. Once again he chose the honorable thing to do. Dying for what he believed in. In some eyes, his reputation was made even worse because he died an “unrepentant sinner” or as someone who was shameless of what he has done in his life, by this I mean the act of adultery. However, I’m sure some saw him as a martyr, so in a way he was saving his reputation as well. What is Theocracy? But before diving deeper into the matter, I would like to introduce the idea of theocracy. CLICK) In Salem at the time, the reputation of a person was heavily influenced by theocracy, which is a system of government in which priests rule in the name of a god. Reputation heavily depended on how a person stood towards god and the church. If a person was true to the church their reputation was most likely well preserved and untarnished. Since this is a Puritan society, it took matters concerning the church very seriously. The novel itself depicts two views and positions towards the church and god. This is shown perfectly in the line spoken by Judge Thomas Danforth in Act 3 on Page 85.

A person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there be no road in between Act III, Pg: 85 The judge is portrayed selfish and extremely loyal to the rules and regulations of his position throughout the novel. His reputation and the public’s opinion of him are most important to him. There is not much to the quote other than it being an example of theocracy. He emphasizes the fact that one must make his mind up how they stand to the church and can’t sit on the fence, and not ebb back and forth between against and for it.

The quote sums up the attitude of the authorities toward the witch trials. Danforth is an honorable man, but, like everyone else in Salem, he sees the world in black and white, meaning he looks at things in a very shallow manner and does not see the importance in looking for deeper meaning. Everything and everyone belongs to either God or the Devil. The court of Salem, was considered blessed and sacred and was God’s way of interacting with humans in a theocracy, one cannot have honest disagreements because God is considered to be flawless and always right.

Since the court is conducting the witch trials and representing god, anyone who questions the trials, such as Proctor or Giles Corey, is the court’s enemy. From here on, the logic is simple: the court does God’s work, and an enemy of the court must therefore be a servant of the Devil. (CLICK) Importance of Reputation in Salem: Reputation is tremendously important in theocratic Salem, because ones private life and moralities are the same as their publics. In an environment where reputation plays such an important role, the fear of guilt by associating with people of plans that oppose the church was very big.

Many people are focused on maintaining a good public reputation. Many of the folks in Salem fear that the sins of their friends and associates will taint their names. Various characters base their actions on the desire to protect their respective reputations. For example as the play begins, Parris fears that Abigail’s increasingly questionable actions and the hints of witchcraft surrounding his daughter’s coma, will threaten his reputation and force him to quit is job, to which I will come later. The protagonist, John Proctor, also seeks to keep his good name from being tarnished.

Early in the play, he has a chance to put a stop to the girls’ accusations, but his desire to preserve his reputation keeps him from testifying against Abigail. At the end of the play, however, Proctor’s desire to keep his good name leads him to make the heroic choice not to sign the false confession and to go to his death without signing his name on the made up confession, which contrasts with his original plan to uncover the pretence of the girls. The Fear of losing one’s reputation: In the novel, there are two main characters, which face the fear of losing or tainting their reputation publicly.

These are John Proctor (CLICK) and Samuel Parris (CLICK). Now I will be showing evidence of how their reputation and the fear of its loss are shown. Parris The major fear that Parris has is losing his position in society and having people not respect him anymore. He is the minister for the town, which was a very important position in the Puritan society. As such, he is in a very visible position to everybody. (CLICK) Thomas, Thomas, I pray you, leap not to witchcraft. I know that you- least of all you, Thomas- would ever wish so disastrous a charge laid upon me.

We cannot leap to witchcraft. They will how me out of Salem for such corruption of my house. Act I, Pg: 22 This quote is solely dedicated to show Parris’s fear of losing his status and reputation in the village. When his daughter seems to be all paralyzed and people are saying it is witchcraft, he becomes very worried. If the town minister’s daughter is involved in witchcraft, or is even possessed by Satan for some other reason, the minister is going to look bad and people are not going to respect him anymore.

We can also see that he’s really concerned about his image and reputation because he gets so angry when Putnam and others say anything bad about him or insinuate anything to do with witchcraft Proctor It’s hard to stray on this question and not come to John Proctor’s reproach of the Puritan society and pleas for his own reputation. When confronted with the choice of signing a false confession or accepting death as a result of telling the truth, John Proctor speaks these lines. (CLICK) “I have given you my soul; leave me my name”

Act IV Pg: 124 You won’t find another and more passionate line about the need to protect one’s reputation. Proctor speaks these lines at the end of the play, in Act IV, on page 124, when he is fighting with his conscience over whether to confess to witchcraft and thereby save himself from the gallows. The judges and Hale have almost convinced him to do so, and all that’s keeping him from freedom is his signature on the confession, which will be posted on the church for everybody to see, tarnishing his name. CLICK) This refusal reflects his desire not to dishonor his fellow prisoners. He would not be able to live with himself knowing that other innocents died while he knocked on death’s door and got away. More important, it illustrates his obsession with his good name. Proctor’s desire to preserve his one and only good name keeps him from testifying. It seems he has also finally come to the understanding of what a good reputation means and what course, and what actions are necessary for it. The most obvious one would be to tell the truth, and not lie to save him from the rope. CLICK) By saying ‘I have given you my soul’, he refers to his confession earlier on in the play about committing lechery. There is nothing purer than a soul, as it is the core of a person, stripped from all its layers of lies and pretence. He has finally come clean of the crime that has been plaguing him for such a long time. (CLICK) He thinks that enough damage was done to his reputation by confessing to adultery, and does not want to tarnish his name any further by confessing to something he did not do. (CLICK)

Another quote from John Proctor is (CLICK), in Act 4 on page 118, when he says. I cannot mount the gibbet like a saint. It is a fraud. I am not that man. [She is silent. ] My honesty is broke, Elizabeth; I am no good man. Nothing’s spoiled by giving them this lie that were not rotten long before. Act IV, Pg: 118 (CLICK)This quote is drenched subliminal references to reputation as well as honesty, as this is also the first time he has been honest to his wife outside of court, since the start of the play. The word ‘mount’ represents a voluntary action. He can’t face the rope like a saint.

Saint referring to Rebecca nurse, who has lived up to accept her fate and is already ‘1 foot in heaven’, and that he can never be as much of a ‘man’ as she is. ‘It is a fraud’ shows the certainty of what’s going on and fraud refers to the situation as a whole, and how none of this should have ever happened, and its all because of a few girls pretending, hence the word fraud, to be possessed by spirits. The stage directions of ‘She is silent’, indicate Elizabeth proctor silently agreeing to her husbands talk, but she may also be too afraid of him to answer, and feels like they are growing further part ever since his confession. John Proctor feels that he is ‘no good man’ because he broke one of the Ten Commandments. Conclusion: In conclusion, I believe that the theme of reputation plays a major role in ‘The Crucible’. Parris and Proctor have different motifs, when it comes to reputation. Ones tries to preserve his, whereas the other is fonder of his honor and the families name rather than his reputation, although both fear the loss of reputation, it just that Proctor has partially come to terms with the consequence.

However in today’s society I personally actually believe that reputation does not hold as much power as it used to. For example if a girl in the family was pregnant without being married, the whole family was considered wrong and dirty. In present times, girls like these even have the chance to enhance their reputation, by participating in MTV’s 16 and Pregnant and putting on a good show. Like I said, this is just an example, and some people may not agree with me. But nonetheless in modern society, reputation is still an aspect by which we identify and label people.