In Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, both Deputy Governor Danforth and Reverend Hale represent two significant characters that depict the flaws and deficiencies of mankind. Both men mindlessly condemn and judge in order to rid Salem of the supposedly satanic. Both men eventually realize their hypocrisy; however, while Hale acknowledges his folly, Danforth obstinately continues to castigate the alleged to maintain his reputation. Arthur Miller, in his work, The Crucible, punctuates the rigid tenacity of Deputy Governor Danforth in comparison to the maturity of Reverend Hale by incorporating various rhetorical devices to highlight some of man’s many flaws still present in society today. Danforth is portrayed as a pious authority figure speaking “God’s law” as he thoughtlessly censures the convicted heathens in Salem (Miller 1324). He ironically defies his own belief of Christianity through his blatant judging and cruel hanging of the innocent. His actions are the antithesis of “God’s Law”, as Christian scriptures state, “Thou shall not judge” and “Thou shall not kill” (The Bible).
Danforth’s undeniable indifference towards his own morals can be seen when he, even after substantial evidence is presented to him, favors the hanging of innocent people over the tarnishing of his own reputation. Danforth asserts to Hale, “[…] the village expects to see them die this morning. Postponement now speaks a floundering on my part” (1324). Danforth’s justification for flagrantly ignoring basic Christian beliefs is so that he can remain on top of the social ranking. He fears that if he releases the condemned he will look like a weak fool in front of the whole town, thus sullying his prestigious reputation. Man’s value towards preserving one’s reputation is held higher than one’s own beliefs and morals, which is a pressing issue present in today’s society. Danforth’s actions directly mirror man’s insecure, self-conscious mindset when one’s reputation is at stake.
Deputy Governor Danforth’s adamancy throughout the play results in little character development, contradicting Reverend Hale’s progressive and dynamic characteristics. Reverend Hale is introduced into the play as a respected, yet pompous figure with a reputation resembling that of Deputy Governor Danforth. Throughout his stay in Salem, Hale becomes increasingly troubled by the accusations and murdering in the town. Initially, the actions and decisions made by Hale mimic that of Danforth, conforming to the fear of the degradation of his stature. After witnessing countless hangings of innocent people, Hale has an epiphany realizing the savagery and inhumane actions taking place in Salem. Hale exclaims, “There is blood on my head! Can you not see the blood in my head!!” (1325). Hale’s epiphany is used by Miller to juxtapose Danforth’s stubbornness to the change in Hale’s character.
Hale’s decisions also contrast to the bandwagon appeal taken by Danforth as Hale vows to end the killing of innocent citizens, “I am a minister of the lord, and I dare not take a life without there be proof so immaculate so slightest qualm of my conscious may doubt it” (1301). Man’s propensity of indirectly conforming to the ideals of eminent authority figures while sacrificing one’s own morals and beliefs is a universal matter apparent throughout history and in today’s contemporary society. The comparisons between Danforth and Hale emphasize the differences and actions of each individual. Danforth’s consistent obduracy is present throughout the play; while Hale’s abrupt realization progresses his character, but is all in vain. Miller also uses the two men to portray society’s flaws of insecurity towards one’s reputation and the tendency to foolishly conform to the beliefs and ideas of authority figures. Ironically, both of these men set out to rid Salem of the damned; however they blindly damn themselves in the process.