The final scene of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible overwhelms my classroom each Halloween season. Especially the film adaptation.
The camera focuses in on the pale, wise face of Rebecca Nurse. The hangman’s noose loops over her head and tightens around her neck. She looks up, one supposes into the eyes of her husband, and then into the clear blue. As she recites the opening lines of the Lord’s Prayer, the camera pans to those standing next to her: John Proctor and Martha Corey. Three voices recite the Lord’s Prayer as the camera zooms out.
The audience views a string of guards – centurions stationed before the gallows. Centered behind them stand three powerhouses of Salem, three souls falsely accused of witchery. As the camera zooms slowly in, the audience sees only the three nooses and three faces of fearlessness. Their backdrop: a cloudless ocean of morning blue.
Nurse’s voice is silenced when suddenly the audience sees only Proctor and Corey. As the camera focuses in on Proctor, only his voice is heard. He hurries through the Prayer’s last line, unable to finish. Subconsciously and inaudibly the audience utters the unspoken word: amen.
The last view is of a hopeful blue and a taught rope swaying in silence.
“For the spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power (2 Timothy 1:7).”
Had the three been timid, they would have signed false confessions proving to all of Salem they had danced with the Devil. All of Salem would have known them for witches and so would history. As it is, they did not give even an inch to timidity.
They did not give in to fear, even if it meant their lives.
My students revolted. They sat disgusted at such injustice. “This movie sucks,” is what most of them said. But I’m certain some felt pride deep down in their hearts for the three brave innocents. Their act of courage certainly inspires and gives one plenty to think on and hope for.
All I can think is this: fear is quite the familiar enemy of mine. I can only hope for half the spirit of power the powerhouses of Salem exuded that execution day.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for the courageous example of Miller’s characters. May we be reminded that you have given us a spirit of power through Christ. May we exude that power boldly. In Jesus’ name, amen.