The remainder of the play pits Salem’s authority structure, as typified by Deputy Governor Danforth with his smug self-righteousness, against its helpless individual victims. Since “the accuser is always holy,” the innocent—Proctor, Proctor’s wife Elizabeth, and the saintly Rebecca Nurse—have no defense. It is clear that the accusations have nothing to do with witchcraft but are the result of long-standing animosities. Abigail, who has had a sexual relationship with Proctor, wants Proctor for herself, and so Elizabeth is named a witch. The play’s climax comes as Proctor, who has long struggled with the guilt over his infidelity and with his powerlessness to assert his innocence in the face of an implacable and tyrannous authority, realizes that he cannot destroy his true identity by signing a false confession: “Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life!” The play’s final image of an innocent Proctor going to his unjust hanging was to be uncannily echoed three years after the play was written when Miller was called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities and convicted of contempt of Congress.
On his deathbed, he once again stresses the message of his earlier sermon. He points out that he wears a tangible veil that hides his face, but that others do the same with the mask each wears to hide his/her sins from others. The Puritans' sense of evil in the world, the constant warring of God against the Devil, and the vigilance to avoid sin and damnation, are reflected in the darkness of Hawthorne's message. Even into death, Hooper wears the veil, perhaps symbolic of the Puritans' belief that all people's souls are black from sin. Forgiveness or deliverance from sin are not promoted in this faith, and the color of the veil paints a somber, frightening picture of the Puritans' perceptions of the world and man's place within that world.
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