Comparing Authority Figures in “The Crucible”
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In the play, “The Crucible”, by Arthur Miller, there are three main authority figures. Unlike what the Bible teaches on this subject, Reverend Samuel Parris, Reverend John Hale, and Deputy Governor Danforth show their understanding of authority in alternate ways. In the Bible, Peter says, “. . . I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority–the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down” (2 Cor. 13:10). In “The Crucible”, the Biblical view of authority is contrasted with those of these three men. Though the Biblical view of authority is servant-like, these three men fall far short of such standards.
Parris believes that the church is the main authority over the people in Salem, and that he is the appointed leader, having power over them. Parris demands that the town obey his command as a representative of the church. In the Bible, the book of Romans tells people to “submit to authorities” (Rom 13:5). Parris constantly feels his authority is being threatened when people question his power-hungry and self-serving ways; he feels persecuted wherever he goes.
Hale is convinced that the written word is the main authority in society. He comments that knowledge is “weighted with authority” (36), so there should be no question as to the reliability and righteousness of the written word. He assumes that the court knows what is best. He believes that people should be confident, trusting that the court makes the right decisions.
Danforth is very strict and resolute about his authority in the court and claims that the court is the highest form of authority. Danforth also has a strong belief that, “anyone rebelling against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted” (Rom. 13:2). Danforth says, “while I speak God’s law, I will not crack its voice with whimpering” (129). In other words, he will not weaken when speaking God’s will.
The Bible explains that authority is supposed to lift people up and not bring them down. The Bible also clarifies that he who does not obey authority will be punished. Parris’s authority is weak in that he is insecure and hides behind the mask of authority of his position. Hale’s authority is arrogant, for he believes he knows more because of all the knowledge of the occult that he has gained. Danforth’s is incontrovertible, for he believes adamantly that God is just and He will reveal to the court what is right. All three men have strong convictions of what authority should be like, but unfortunately, they choose altered Biblical views.
Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. New York: Penguin Books, 1981.
The Student Bible. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.