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An Analysis of Mary Warren's Role in Arthur Miller's "The Crucible"

Updated on September 26, 2013

Mary Warren's Inner Conflicts

In Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, the character, Mary Warren, is bereft with inner turmoil. She is exceedingly confused at times. When Miller first introduces Mary Warren she is a seventeen year old girl. Miller describes her as “naïve”. Yet, Mary understands the danger that she and the other girls are in for their midnight dancing. She pleads with Abby that “Witchery’s a hanging error…We must tell the truth, Abby”. Mary Warren understands the necessity for herself and the others to confess. Mary argues with Abigail that “It’s a sin to conjure…”. Although Mary is naïve she is not willfully malicious and realizes that her actions and the actions of the other girls were wrong.

Mary obviously feels guilty for participating in the midnight dancing, or she would not feel the need to confess her actions. When she becomes one of the accusers she seems to feel guilty for that as well. She cries profusely while informing the Proctors that “Goody Osburne-will hang”. Mary may not fully understand her own feelings at this time. She argues that the court is right in condemning Goody Osburne as a witch. Yet, why should Mary cry for the life of a witch who has done her harm? Mary’s feelings are obviously mixed.

Miller portrays Mary as a “lonely girl”. As such, Mary’s involvement with the other accusers probably provides her with the fulfillment of some need to be part of a group. However, Mary is caught in the midst of peer pressure. She is especially fearful of Abby, and refuses to speak out against her. “She’ll kill me for sayin’ that”, cries Mary to Proctor when he demands that she confess. When Mary tries to confess herself to Danforth the other girls mimic her, and they accuse her of witchery. In weakness, Mary complies with the pretense of the other girls and accuses Proctor of being a fiend.

Mary also seemed to be suffering from emotional contagion. Many times Mary was able to make her body go cold and faint. However, when Mary was not in the midst of Abigail and the other girls shrieking and fearfulness Mary was unable to do these things. Mary was either consciously or unconsciously mimicking the emotions and behavior of the other girls. When the girls were not influencing Mary, she simply stated “I have no sense of it now”.

Mary finds a new sort of power in being an accuser. She is no longer treated like a child. She dines with judges, and people listen to her. Mary gets a taste of what it is to be respected, and begins to demand respect from Proctor. “I would have you speak civilly to me”, says Mary. Yet, Mary stamps her foot childishly while elucidating Proctor of her womanhood, and informing him that “I’ll not be ordered to bed no more”. Mary may be eighteen years old and the court may treat her well, but Mary is still a weak, “naïve”, and compliant child who lacks the strength of will to do what is right.


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    • Drea DeFoe profile image

      Drea DeFoe 5 years ago

      That is truly wonderful. Congratulations.


    • donnah75 profile image

      Donna Hilbrandt 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      It was amazing. It turned out to be a beautiful show. I put it at the top of my list of the work I have done in theater. I guess I should throw a nod to Arthur Miller for that :)

    • donnah75 profile image

      Donna Hilbrandt 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      Great discussion of this character. "The Crucible" is one of my favorites. I directed it a couple of years ago, and your description brought back great memories of my former student who played the role of Mary Warren so well. Thanks!