Self-preservation and the downfall of Salem
Self-preservation is the act of protecting one’s self. It is often correlated with pain and fear and it is regarded as a basic human instinct. People often use self-preservation to protect their image and reputation in society, thus potentially having to lie and hurt someone else’s status in the process. In Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, many characters demonstrate self-preservation to avoid the consequences of their own actions. This results in prolonging the witch trials in the town of Salem, causing the destruction of the community.
Reverend Samuel Parris is a prime example of a character that uses self-preservation throughout the play to maintain his high position in society.
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Proctor has knowledge and proof of Abigail’s false accusations after his single encounter with her in act one. Elizabeth pleads for him to share his knowledge with the court when she says, “God forbid you keep that from court, John. I think they must be told” (Miller 53). Proctor reluctantly responds and says, “I’ll think on it” (Miller 53). Abigail clearly ignited the witch-hunt and the accusations against Elizabeth Proctor after her affair with John, in order to seek vengeance on the Proctors for firing her. Proctor initially ignores Abigail’s revenge in order to keep his reputation in good standing. Elizabeth knows that John is a reliable source which the community respects, thus wishing her husband would face the court and provide them with evidence that the witch-hunt is built on a fraudulent lie. However, Proctor is hesitant because he knows he risks having to admit to lechery in order to weaken Abigail’s current status and make her seem less credible. If Proctor shares his knowledge he could have prevented the continuance of the witch-hunt, but he chooses to preserve his name in the community until later on in the play. Soon, John Proctor is accused of witchcraft and considers confessing to the court when he says, “I will have my life” (Miller 137). John’s self-preserving personality leads him to considering the preservation of his life by confessing, thus betraying all those