A radical religion called Puritanism was vitally important to the people of Salem, and they were extraordinarily paranoid of the Devil. Two characters in the book The Crucible demonstrate how Puritanism affected the society. Judge Danforth is an example of religious ignorance and ends up being the person who condemns everyone, suspecting they are all witches. On the other hand, John Proctor is a level headed farmer who watches as his friends and their wives are accused of witchcraft and sentenced to death, that is, until his own wife is accused. Using these foil characters, Arthur Miller exemplifies the difference between people who are weak minded and cowardly versus people who are strong-minded and brave. Danforth and Proctor teach us that fear causes us humans to act blindly. Readers of this book must come to a conclusion about themselves, whether they are a John Proctor or a Judge Danforth. Hopefully, for the sake of humanity, readers who are categorized as a Judge Danforth will work to change themselves.
John Proctor, a man with a good reputation, is not a strict Puritan. During his conversation with Hale at the Proctor household in Act II Scene II, he demonstrates that he knows the entire situation is mostly nonsense by saying, I know not what I have said, I may have said it. I have wondered if there be witches in the world- although I cannot believe they come among us now (69). The repercussions of expressing disbelief in witches would cause someone to quickly arouse suspicion towards their own supernatural status, which is not a good idea in the Salem Witch Trials. Men like John Proctor who face their fears head on tend to lead more stable lifestyles. Being a farmer, Proctor must have to live a more economically difficult life than Danforth, since he is a prestigious judge who deals with multiple court cases each day. Danforths wealth is a barrier that protects him from looking at his fear for the devil in the eye since he has the power to cast away anyone who proposes a Satanic threat, being too afraid to try them fairly. John Proctor lives his life as a modest farmer who makes just enough to support his wife and children in a small house where he goes out to harvest crops each day. Through Proctors life, he built up strength through hardships to be able to combat his fears, where Danforth never learned how. Proctor had to redeem himself after foolishly having an affair with Abigail, something that would not be easy to overcome. In the end of the story, Proctor battles his fear of having his name besmirched to his death and sets an example for all people who relate to Danforth.
In addition to being too spoiled to stand up to his fears, Judge Danforth, a harsh yet wistful judge, jumps to conclusions about the guilt of many women because he is a radical Puritan. Danforth, seeing the world in black and white, thinks of everything as either Gods or the Devils property. He believes the court does Gods work, so an enemy of the court is surely a servant of the devil. Danforth tells Francis Nurse, You must understand, sir, that a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there be no road between. This is a sharp time, now, a precise timewe live no longer in the dusky afternoon when evil mixed itself with good and befuddled the world. Now, by Gods grace, the shining sun is up, and them that fear not light will surely praise it(67). Unlike different people, Danforths extreme Puritanism affects him negatively. His fear causes paranoia to grow within him and drives him mad. There is no way that a highly regarded judge such as him could lack the amount of intelligence to be able to differentiate between blatant blasphemies and the truth. Danforth was far too afraid to face his God and be incorrect when judging the guiltiness of the accused. Never did Judge Danforth demand evidence from the victims of the Devil, but he always did when people such as John Proctor cried innocence for the people who were prosecuted. Danforths lack of strength causes him to resort to the only option he knows, which is constantly avoiding his fear. Perhaps if Danforth was not so afraid, then the Salem Witch Trials might have gone differently, where he trusted a man with a good reputation over a group of silly teenage girls.
Religion is important, but not to an extent where it brings paranoia into peoples lives. Danforth is too radical for his own good and it ends up creating the nightmare known as the Salem Witch Trials. The fear his beliefs cause make him cowardly and weak minded. Proctor, on the other hand, knows his morals and standards, and lives an honest life. The farmer shows valor by standing up to Danforth, knowing that it would eventually result in his death if he went too far. Subsequently, he goes to the grave still holding onto his dignity and beliefs. God cries for the people such as Thomas Putnam, the girls, and even Danforth for killing their fellow sons of God over religion. In the modern day, we hear about the Taliban in the Middle East, which reminds me of what happened during the Salem Witch Trials. Hopefully one day, the human race will be able to have religion without it being radical, and more people will think and like John Proctor.