Evidence of Vanity in Puritanical Works
You’ll never get a job dressed like that. You need to stop acting so ditzy if you want people to take you seriously. Stop running your fingers through your hair—you don’t want people to think you’re a slob. Occasionally, thoughts like these pop up in my mind, probably because I care too much about what others think of me. I get really concerned about how people perceive me and interpret my actions. However, I’m not really concerned about vanity being my great flaw or becoming the next Narcissus, because everyone is a little vain. Unfortunately, some people take their pride a little overboard. For instance, John Proctor was so vain that he would rather die than tarnish his name; the judges that condemned him had an inkling of knowledge that they were killing innocent people, but by the time they realized it, they couldn’t save people without ruining their reputation. Arthur Dimmesdale let the mother of his child suffer years of judgment because he didn’t want to face the shame of revealing his sin. These instances show that humans are naturally vain and that, occasionally, their vanity can rule over their lives.
The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, contains several examples of vanity and its consequences; the most notable example is John Proctor and his refusal to taint his name. Proctor confesses to witchcraft in order to save his life; however, he tears up his signature when the judges reveal that they will publicize his confession. When asked why he does this, he famously says that he is not worth the dust on the feet of those who have hanged. He states that his name, the only one he will ever have, would be taken from him. This may seem like a strange obsession with his own name but Proctor knows that if he confesses now, he will live in shame and die with a shameful name on his grave, as well as dishonor the names of those who hung for their silence. He knows his soul is compromised and that he will not see heaven; he figures that his silence will make people wonder if the name Proctor is truly disgraced.
John Proctor is only one example of many concerning vanity in The Crucible. The members of the court let scores of innocent people die on the off chance that one or two might be in league with the Devil. Only a few, such as Hale, come to their senses and realize that the only options of the accused are to lie and live or clam up and hang. Others, like Danforth and Hathorne, have some knowledge that wrongdoing is happening, but for fear of ruining their reputation, will not stop the deaths of innocent people. The reason the judges are so adamant about Proctor’s confession is because his name carries weight in the community and his...