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The Crucible by Arthur Miller - Barron's Booknotes

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Poor Mary Warren! When we first meet her briefly in
Act I, she's afraid of everything. She was afraid to dance
with the other girls in the woods. Now that the girls have
been caught, she's afraid she'll be hanged as a witch, if
Abigail doesn't tell the whole truth. Most of all she's
afraid of Abigail-until John Proctor comes in and scares
her back home.

But in Act II, when Proctor calls Mary a mouse,
Elizabeth corrects him: "It is a mouse no more." Now
that Mary's an official of the court, she can stand up
even to John Proctor's rage. Has Mary Warren suddenly
become brave? Of course not. Her courage comes from
the court, from being one of the group.

And in Act III, not even John Proctor's great strength can
keep her from breaking under the stress of being "cried
out" by Abigail and the other girls. Mary's more afraid
of Abigail than anything, even the fact that "God damns
all liars," and this fear fully overwhelms her.

Is this a totally spineless creature? Probably not. Few
people could stand up under the ordeal that Mary
Warren is put through in Act III, and it's a wonder she
holds out as long as she does. Considering how easily
frightened Mary is by nature, she shows tremendous
courage in coming to the court at all. True, Proctor is
making her do it; but once the ordeal has begun, Mary
holds her own against Abigail longer than anybody. But
when Proctor is discredited, she loses his support; and
when even the judges turn against her, Mary finally

Mary can hardly be called evil. She tells the truth, unless
she is intimidated into doing otherwise. She makes the
poppet as a gift for Elizabeth. Maybe Mary does this to
make up for being away from her chores for so long, but
maybe this is the action of a kind heart as well as a
guilty conscience.

Above all, Mary's naive: she's slow to believe evil of
anyone. Perhaps this is why she cannot resist the evil
that overwhelms her-she didn't know how strong it was
because she didn't know it was there in the first place.

And could it also be loneliness that draws Mary Warren
into this catastrophe? Out on Proctor's farm, John and
Elizabeth have each other and the children for
companionship-they are a family. Mary is an orphan, an
outsider, living on the Proctor's charity. Three times she
disobeys Proctor's orders and sneaks into town: once to
watch the other girls dance, again the next day "to see
the great doings in the world," and finally to go to court
as an "official." Is it excitement she's after? In part,
perhaps, but in town she is a member of a group; at
home, she is just a lone servant. Maybe what crushes her
in Act III is not just the harshness of the judges and the
hysteria of her friends, but her isolation. She's not afraid
to tell the truth, she's afraid to stand alone.

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The Crucible by Arthur Miller - Barron's Booknotes

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