The Crucible

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Reputation and Integrity Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
Hysteria Theme Icon
The Danger of Ideology Theme Icon
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Crucible, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon

Reputation is the way that other people perceive you. Integrity is the way you perceive yourself. Several characters in The Crucible face a tough decision: to protect their reputation or their integrity. Parris, Abigail, and others to protect their reputations. Rebecca Nurse and, eventually, John Proctor, choose to protect their integrity.

In rigid communities like Salem, a bad reputation can result in social or even physical punishment. The Crucible argues that those most concerned with reputation, like Parris, are dangerous to society: to protect themselves, they're willing to let others be harmed and fuel hysteria in the process. In contrast, The Crucible shows that those who favor integrity by admitting mistakes and refusing to lie just to save their own lives help defy hysteria. Willing to die for what they believe in, they put a stop to the baseless fear that feeds hysteria.

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Reputation and Integrity ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Reputation and Integrity appears in each act of The Crucible. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Reputation and Integrity Quotes in The Crucible

Below you will find the important quotes in The Crucible related to the theme of Reputation and Integrity.
Act 1 Quotes
I look for John Proctor that took me from my sleep and put knowledge in my heart! I never knew what pretense Salem was, I never knew the lying lessons I was taught by all these Christian women and their covenanted men! And now you bid me tear the light out of my eyes? I will not, I cannot! You loved me, John Proctor, and whatever sin it is, you love me yet!
Related Characters: Abigail Williams (speaker), John Proctor
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

Left alone with John Proctor and the supposedly ailing and unconscious Betty Parris, Abigail reminds Proctor of their past adulterous relationship, insisting that Proctor still loves her. Abigail is furious at Elizabeth Proctor, John's wife, who has ruined Abigail's reputation in the village. Proctor, meanwhile, feels that his personal integrity has been destroyed because of his affair with Abigail and betrayal of Elizabeth, and he is dismissive of Abigail's pleas to return to her. Abigail places no such value on personal integrity; she is willing to make accusations of witchcraft in order to get out of trouble with Reverend Parris for dancing in the woods.

Abigail's speech also reveals that she has taken Proctor's opinions on Salem's hypocrisy and corruption to heart. From Proctor, Abigail has learned to recognize that the power of the Puritan church comes from its stifling of individual ideas that conflict with church doctrine. Abigail's understanding of the church's hypocrisy and paranoia will lead her to see how she can manipulate the church's fears in order to protect herself and to take revenge on the people she hates (like Elizabeth). In this speech, Abigail implies that the accusations of witchcraft she is going to make will be false, and are a calculated manipulation of the people of Salem.

Abigail fuses together her sexual awakening ("John Proctor that took me from my sleep") and her intellectual awakening ("and put knowledge in my heart"), using the Biblical language she is accustomed to (Adam and Eve's first sin was gaining "knowledge," and in the Bible sexual intercourse is often referred to as "knowing" one's spouse). Abigail shifts swiftly back and forth between the "light" of Proctor's love and the "light" of his teaching.


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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!
Related Characters: Abigail Williams (speaker), Mrs. Osburn, Sarah Good
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

Out of fear that she will be hanged, Tituba confesses to making a compact with the Devil and says that she has seen Sarah Good and Goody Osburn with the Devil. In these closing moments of Act 1, Abigail leaps up and offers her own confession: she too has been ensnared by the Devil, but she now accuses a long list of villagers of witchcraft. Betty immediately follows Abigail's lead, offering her own confession and accusations.

This passage shows that Abigail understands the way that Reverend Hale and Reverend Parris will carry out their investigations: anyone suspected of dealing with the Devil can simply confess, make another accusation of witchcraft, and automatically be "cleansed." The community's hysteria and mob mentality ensure that Abigail and all her friends will be believed.

In this moment, Abigail chooses to protect her reputation over her integrity, preferring to send the women she names to their deaths rather than face the consequences of her misbehavior. Abigail's accusations here also introduce the ripple effect that her actions will have throughout the play: as soon as she begins to make these claims, Betty Parris and the other girls do, as well, and it becomes increasingly difficult for the innocent to argue against the mounting hysteria and the testimonies of the "victims" of witchcraft in Salem.

Act 2 Quotes
I'll plead no more! I see now your spirit twists around the single error of my life, and I will never tear it free!
Related Characters: John Proctor (speaker), Elizabeth Proctor
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

Elizabeth Proctor remains convinced that Abigail Williams intends to become John's wife and have Elizabeth condemned as a witch. Elizabeth urges John to go to Abigail and make it clear that he has no interest in continuing their affair. Elizabeth questions John's hesitation, and, in this quote, John laments that Elizabeth obsesses over his past affair with Abigail and will not yet trust him or forgive him.

John considers his personal integrity stained forever by this "single error" and Elizabeth's suspicions and judgment merely increase his powerful guilt. Earning Elizabeth's forgiveness will become his central motivation in the play, and he is unable to forgive himself until she forgives him. John's fervent wish to win back Elizabeth's respect will lead him, ultimately, to give up his life rather than falsely plead guilty and, in doing so, commit a second sin.

I have seen too many frightful proofs in court—the Devil is alive in Salem, and we dare not quail to follow wherever the accusing finger points!
Related Characters: Reverend Hale (speaker)
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:

Francis Nurse arrives at the Proctor home, revealing that his wife, Rebecca Nurse, has been accused of witchcraft and charged with the murder of the Putnams' babies. Reverend Hale first reassures Francis that Rebecca will be found innocent but insists, reluctantly, that the court must take the accusations of witchcraft seriously.

Reverend Hale, a good but weak man, feels himself powerless to challenge the power of the court. Since the Puritan church controls the courts of law in Salem, Hale has no choice but to recognize the court's decisions as sanctified. Salem's hysteria overpowers even the most unblemished reputations, allowing for the accusations and arrests of previously revered Salem citizens, like Rebecca Nurse.

Hale's speech also reveals the fear that bolsters the Salem Witch Trials. His unwillingness to challenge Abigail's claims stems from actual terror that the Devil is present in Salem, a terror that the church leaders use to manipulate their followers into blind submission ("we dare not quail to follow"). 

Finally, these lines demonstrate how powerful Abigail has become and how skillfully she has understood, and taken advantage of, the people's weaknesses and fears. If the court is willing to believe any "accusing finger," Abigail finds herself free to point towards Rebecca Nurse or Elizabeth Proctor or anyone whom she means to harm.

Act 3 Quotes
A man may think God sleeps, but God sees everything, I know it now. I beg you, sir, I beg you—see her what she is . . . She thinks to dance with me on my wife's grave! And well she might, for I thought of her softly. God help me, I lusted, and there is a promise in such sweat. But it is a whore's vengeance.
Related Characters: John Proctor (speaker), Elizabeth Proctor, Abigail Williams
Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:

John Proctor, horrified by witnessing Abigail shriek that Mary's spirit is attacking her, publicly confesses to having slept with Abigail. He explains that Elizabeth dismissed Abigail because of the affair, and, in this speech, denounces Abigail, asserting that her hope is to have Elizabeth killed and to marry John. In confessing to his sin, John chooses to sacrifice his good reputation in an attempt to save his wife and the other innocents who stand accused.

The speech returns to John's language of "vengeance" in Act 2. Then, he claimed that the court's warrant for Elizabeth's arrest was borne out of vengeance, but now he endows that claim with scandalous specificity, insisting that Abigail's accusations are nothing but "a whore's vengeance." He finally carries out Elizabeth's wish that he reclaim his personal integrity and make it clear to Abigail that he has no intention of continuing their affair—but he acts too late. By now, Abigail has done her worst and the power lies in the hands of the court.

Throughout the speech, John leans heavily on religious language, seeking salvation and forgiveness through God's grace. John has felt ashamed to sin in the sight of God; he is wracked with a personal guilt that differs sharply from the hollow repentance that the court seeks from the villagers who stand accused.

A fire, a fire is burning! I hear the boot of Lucifer, I see his filthy face! And it is my face, and yours, Danforth! For them that quail to bring men out of ignorance, as I have quailed, and as you quail now when you know in all your black hearts that this be fraud—God damns our kind especially, and we will burn, we will burn together!
Related Characters: John Proctor (speaker), Deputy Governor Danforth
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:

Danforth tells Mary Warren that she will be hanged unless she confesses so Mary turns on John Proctor, accusing him of having joined with the Devil. Proctor, prompted by Danforth to confess, instead declares that, "God is dead!" He then delivers this speech, in which he holds himself and all the men of the court accountable for giving into their fears, asserting that they will all burn in hell for these sins.

Proctor accuses himself of having failed to reveal the truth of Abigail's manipulations soon enough. He recognizes that Danforth and his followers know that Abigail is a fraud but that they give into hysteria, preferring to protect their reputations as interpreters of God's will rather than confess that they have erred in believing the girls' false testimonies.

Proctor, at last, locates the real "filthy face" of the Devil in Salem. It is found in all the villagers who fear to do the right thing and instead persecute and execute innocent individuals to preserve their power over the community. Danforth, of course, hears this speech as nothing but sacrilegious evidence that Proctor has indeed allied himself with the Devil.

Nowhere else in the play does the playwright's voice speak as strongly, ferociously condemning both the perpetrators of such self-serving, fear-mongering crimes and the bystanders who know the right thing to do but yet stand motionless.

Act 4 Quotes
It is mistaken law that leads you to sacrifice. Life, woman, life is God's most precious gift; no principle, however glorious, may justify the taking of it . . may well be God damns a liar less than he that throws his life away for pride.
Related Characters: Reverend Hale (speaker), Elizabeth Proctor
Page Number: 122
Explanation and Analysis:

John Proctor has been sentenced to hang unless he confesses to his alliance with the Devil. Reverend Hale, holding himself accountable for John's sentence, pleads with Elizabeth to urge John to confess and save his life.

Reverend Hale's words to Elizabeth reveal a broken minister who has come to doubt everything that he once understood about God's grace and righteousness. He tells Elizabeth that it is better for John to live than to uphold his spiritual integrity and go to the scaffold professing his true innocence. Desperate for John to live, Reverend Hale argues that it may even be a greater sin to die for "pride" than to lie in order to live.

Reverend Hale finally sees how blind adherence to the church has led the Puritans away from God: "Cleave to no faith when faith brings blood," he tells Elizabeth. Reverend Hale asks Elizabeth to do the one thing that she (and, ultimately, John) cannot do: make two wrongs into a right.

I do think I see some shred of goodness in John Proctor. Not enough to weave a banner with, but white enough to keep it from such dogs. Give them no tear! Tears pleasure them! Show honor now, show a stony heart and sink them with it!
Related Characters: John Proctor (speaker)
Page Number: 133
Explanation and Analysis:

John Proctor decides to tear up his confession, and so he will be hung for his failure to admit his union with the Devil. Before he is escorted to the gallows, he delivers this final speech, declaring that he is glad not to have given into pressures to conform with Puritan tyranny, and urging his wife to stand steadfast against the court: "Give them no tear!"

John remains aware of the wrongs he has committed: his adulterous affair with Abigail and his failure to expose Abigail's treachery earlier still plague him. The goodness that he perceives within himself is only a "shred." Still, in his final moments, John chooses to reclaim his integrity, standing in the light rather than giving into the shadowy evil of the Puritan court which would have allowed him to live. At last, Elizabeth can forgive him, and John can forgive himself.

Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!
Related Characters: John Proctor (speaker), John Proctor
Page Number: 133
Explanation and Analysis:

John Proctor gives a verbal confession and written confession but then grabs the paper back from Judge Danforth, refusing to have it made public. In this speech, he reveals that his confession is false, and he admits his tremendous guilt in going free when better souls, with greater integrity, have been killed for professing their innocence.

Proctor seeks to preserve some shred of integrity, ashamed to have given a false confession in order to save his life. He recognizes that by publicly confessing to an alliance with the Devil, he will feed Salem's fury, essentially supporting the senseless murders of his friends and neighbors by giving into the court's demands. The "soul" he has supposedly given to Danforth is his personal and spiritual integrity; in confessing, he has cast aside all of his cherished values.