Today’s society is composed of a country built on the Constitution, which is governed by laws, justice in these laws and authority. Authority holds precedence in any situation; the policeman upholding the law, the judge administering justice, the common citizen being law abiding. However, true authority is not constituted by a diploma, an appointment, or a title, it is earned by respect, honor and integrity. All of which are misused, and misunderstood, in the The Crucible.
Authority can be a means of rectifying one’s situation in a community. With a title, authority is swayed to protect a person’s image or self respect, resulting in another’s misfortune. Reverend Parris himself led in the persecution of several innocent townspeople, all in protection of his own image and pulpit let it be disgraced by a niece that was a liar and sleep around. Now a man of lesser title, or precedent, would probably have been sneered at for believing his niece was afflicted with witchcraft and carrying out such accusations against the townspeople, but, as a man of god, more people were willing to believe in his feelings, resulting in the death of 20 individuals. Thomas Putnam, a man resembling wealth and property authority, was able to conveniently gain more property and wealth as a means of accusing his enemies of witchcraft to spite his own profit. Deputy Governor Danforth, a symbol of civil authority, controlled the court to his advantage by limiting his thoughts in regards to the obvious “act” put in front of him by the “afflicted” girls. A person who may have been innocent could easily be persecuted by a wealthy or titled person who had more authority, or was deemed so by the standards of the day or the title beseeched him.
Respect and honor are key in maintaining authority. A person’s true authority comes from the people, and is gained only through respect and honor. A respected person holds more weight in a society than any wealthy or titled individual. Rebecca Nurse, who is well known in Beverly for her goodwill, shows authority over the people who believe in her and mourn her when she is being persecuted for witchcraft. John Proctor also holds authority throughout the trials as an honest working man who holds deep honor and integrity for himself, despite his previous acts of adultery. Rebecca and John both lead the people in establishing a crumbling within the trials, they are deeply respected within the community. Nurse is not the Bridget Bishop who slept with her husband a year before marriage, and John is not the man who drank his family into debt and starvation. These facts give them a higher edge in the community, and cause in the dissolution of the trials themselves. Respect and honor earn them both authority in Salem, a position normally bestowed on titled or diplomed individuals who may, or may not, deserve it.
A person with integrity can also easily hold authority in a situation. Reverand Hale shows true authority when he realizes that innocents are being helplessly persecuted, and shows so by leaving the court. Procter shows integrity for himself when he refuses to sign his declaration of being possessed by the devil. Governor Danforth lacked authority as a result of lacking integrity. By failing to remain open minded in relation to F. Nurse, Giles Corey, Mary Warren and Proctor’s declarations, his true authority became non existent, people were more willing to defy him and the courts after his own acts against justice.
Authority cannot be appointed. There is good and evil to each person, regardless of position or social class. Authority can fall into the wrong hands at any time as a result of a title (i.e., Sudam Husain and Adolph Hitler.) True authority is earned, and used in benefit, not destruction, of man kind.