The Crucible – The Difference Between Law and Justice
Are law and justice the same thing? Many believe the idea that if one disobeys the law, they must be brought to justice. However, this isn’t always the case. The fact that there is law permitting or forbidding an act that does not determine that it is right or wrong. While justice is meant to be administered with the utmost fairness and equality, Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible demonstrates that this does not always prevail. In The Crucible by Arthur Miller, the citizens of Salem seem to think that law and justice are the same thing. However, this is not true.
In act three, Danforth says “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 time—we live no longer in the dusky afternoon when evil mixed itself with good and befuddled the world. Now, by God’s grace, the shining sun is up, and them that fear not light will surely praise it (Danforth, 90). ” When Danforth says this, it shows that he believes that unless someone was ruling with the court, then they were against it, and therefore, evil.
Clearly, Salem does not practice separation of church and state, which at the time made for a lot of bigotry and religious-driven harm and persecution. Because the Bible says that any female that commits the sin of lechery should be stoned to death, that does not make it humane or justified. The citizens of Salem seem to lack the ability to comprehend that. An underlying theme within The Crucible is theocracy; God is supposedly the ultimate leader, judge, and arbiter. The way Salem sees it, God needs men on earth to instill justice in the lives of the citizens of earth.
Hathorne, Danforth, Parris, and Hale were all part of that system. Though it seems that only those who confessed to having committed grave sins against God, along with those who refused to confess had a sense of that justice. Salem believed that God was speaking through the girls to bring to light crimes that would have been invisible otherwise. “But witchcraft is ipso facto, on its face and by its nature, an invisible crime, is it not? Therefore, who may possibly be to witness it? The witch and the victim.
None other. Now we cannot hope the witch to accuse herself; granted? Therefore we must rely upon her victims—and they do testify, the children certainly to testify. As for the witches, none will deny that we are most eager for all their confessions. Therefore, what is left for a lawyer to bring out? I think I have made my point. Have I not (Danforth, 96)? ” In this quote, Danforth explains that only the children would know of witchcraft in the town and that they have no other way of knowing the crime is committed.
He was clearly ignorant, as Abigail and the girls she has convinced to play along were only children and teenagers. They would most definitely crave attention at their age, and would take advantage of any form of it that they could get. The court appears to overlook this and takes the word of the girls throughout most of the play. Not a single one of the accusations during the Salem Witch Trials is done out of fear. Each and every single one of them is due to a character attempting to preserve their own reputation or as an attempt to achieve their own selfish ambitions.
And aside from this, Danforth chose to overlook several things that would prove the accused to be innocent, or at least give reason to doubt what the accusers are saying. It seems that the accusers are always right, no matter what the circumstances of the accusations. It is tossed aside that Abigail and John had an affair because Danforth and Hathorne did everything in their power to avoid believing the affair happened. It is overlooked that Putnam clearly wants Giles Corey’s land, and he conveniently accuses the man of witchcraft.
When one is accused of witchcraft, their land is sold for a much smaller sum than it is worth. Giles Corey accuses Thomas Putnam of being an opportunist of the worst kind, as his land would be sold and Putnam would have the first opportunity to buy it. “My proof is there! Pointing to the paper. If Jacobs hangs for a witch he forfeit his property—that’s law! And there is none but Putnam with the coin to buy so great a piece. This man is killing his neighbors for their land (Corey, 92)! ” Francis Nurse attempts time and time again to bring evidence to the court but he is unable to present it.
The obvious reasoning for this is that Danforth is worried about his reputation. He has too much pride to admit that he believes Abigail and Tituba and the others that brought accusations against the innocent people of Salem. Instead, Danforth would rather those who had done nothing wrong, suffer in his place for his ignorance and selfishness. So perhaps, Danforth did have a sense of justice as the accused did, but he would rather keep quiet about it because his own reputation is more important than the lives of others. The “justice” system in Salem is based on religious belief, more than the actual law.
This being true, the evidence is largely supernatural, and therefore cannot be countered with reason or hard evidence. The only people that had to prove their case are those that disagree with the accusers. Accusers are automatically assumed to be telling the truth and do not need an ounce of proof. They may be questioned, but they are always considered right. This type of law is not ethical in today’s justice system; innocent until proven guilty. While Salem has a form of law, there is no sense of justice in the community.