The Key to Happiness
The Key to Happiness
Self-respect is an essential element for a person’s well being of their mental health. Anyone who seeks to be mentally healthy needs self-respect, but the thin line between self-respect and ego is crossed quite easily resulting in many internal and external conflicts. These conflicts can have drastic effects on people, making them act in eccentric ways, and their outlandish actions have direct and opposite reactions. The same theme of ego and excessive pride is prevalent in Arthur Miller’s play: The Crucible’, where the characters’ need to maintain their pride in the town of Salem leads to the ruthless executions of numerous innocents under the name of witchcraft.
From the beginning of the play, we see a character that stands out from the others. He thinks highly of himself and takes inordinate pride in his actions and beliefs. John Proctor; if he could be described in one word, it would be pride. Near the start of the play, when Proctor is questioned about his absence at the Church, he takes pride in his belief that [the Puritan minister] preach only hellfire and bloody damnation and that [he] hardly ever mentions God anymore (Miller 582). Not coming to the Church is seen as a direct sign of defiance to God in the eyes of the ruling theocracy, and this instance is later used against Proctor when he is accused of witchcraft.
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Taking pride in his beliefs of purifying the church landed him in jail, and ultimately led to his demise. Nevertheless, things escalate in the court quite quickly and then soon Danforth (judge) asks Proctor to falsely confess to witchcraft and sign the confession which will make the validate it and in return, Proctor can have his life but at the price of his name. Hale (a master in the study of witchcraft) and many others urged Proctor to sign the false confession but Proctor cherishes his reputation more than his life and will do anything to protect it, so he refuses to sign his confession and says that [he has] given [his] soul but he cannot live without [his] name (Miller 677). Proctor becomes one of the innocents who was falsely executed under the name of witchcraft due to a profuse amount of pride in his name.
Soon after the first account of witchcraft in Salem, a new character – Hale is called to Salem. Hale is the Puritan pastor of Beverly, Massachusetts and due to his high position, everyone in Salem instantly respects him and think of him as a master in the study of witchcraft; this gives Hale enough room to assert his dominance and augment his pride. Just like Proctor, Hale thinks highly of himself by [instructing] and sounding intelligent to the citizens of Salem, telling them that the Devil is precise; the marks of his presence are definite as stone and that [he] shall not proceed unless [the citizens of Salem are prepared to believe [Hale] (Miller 588).
Hale certainly takes pride in his ability to detect witchcraft. Soon after sounding intelligent to the citizens of Salem, Hale is placed on a pedestal which undoubtedly bolsters his ego. A little later on, Hale performs his investigation by interrogating the young girls who started the witchcraft trials. Hale asks them intimidating questions and the girls are easily intimidated by Hale’s set up questions. They end up getting scared and lie that they have seen multiple people with the devil and Hale validates it by saying Glory to the God! It is broken, they are free! (Miller 595). Hale’s desire to strengthen his ego resulted in him making a false judgment which escalated the trials to a whole other level. Such a reputable person like Hale validated the trails which led to the deaths of several innocents and also an increase in believers of witchcraft.
The character with almost the same, if not more, pride than Proctor is Danforth. Danforth is under the impression that he can surely get to the bottom of such an inferior town’s fracas, given that he is the deputy governor of Massachusetts. Danforth already has a great amount of reputation in the town since he holds the most authority, which helps his pride surge. When there is a threat to his reputation, such as when Francis tells Danforth [The young naive girls] are deceiving [him], he reasserts his dominance in the courtroom by saying, do you know who I am…seventy-two condemned to hand by that signature (Miller 632).
This reinforces his ego and exterminates any threats to it, undoubtedly making everyone in the town believe that Danforth knows what he’s doing and that his judgment is the best. Later on in the story, when Danforth finds that his judgment was a little faulty and that 12 innocents were executed because of him under false claims of witchcraft, he realizes that in order to not be overthrown by the people of Salem he cannot pardon [the rest of the people] when 12 are already hanged for the same crime (Miller 677). To save himself from being denounced and to save his reputation from being blotched, he sentences the rest of the 12 people to death resulting in additional deaths of innocents due to a character’s need to maintain their pride in the town.
Numerous innocent people are ruthlessly killed as an action, or reaction, of their or others’ need to maintain their pride in the town. If one could give up on their pride, it makes their lives and their relations with others robust. Leaving behind one’s pride is the key to happiness without any external or internal conflicts. Just as Buddha said, If one says I want happiness’, he must let go of the I’ – his ego, and get rid of the want’ – his desire of having pride, which will leave one with just happiness.