i have a class discussion on the book
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If I had to choose one or the other, I'd have to say Hale hurt the witch trials. He arrived in Salem ready to prove himself. He considered himself an expert, he was arrogant, and he was confident in his expertise. Unfortunately, Hale was also naive, an intellectual lacking experience, an intellectual who based his thoughts upon the writing of others rather than using his own mind and commonsense.
By the time Hale figures out what's going on, it's too late. He begins to doubt his actions, but his hands are already dirtied with the blood of innocent people. Hale represents the hysteria. His initial presence helped to fuel the fire, and his continued participation directly effected the outcome.