Both demonstrated that , “if the law is of such a nature that it requires one to be an agent of injustice toward another, then I say break the law,” as stated by Henry David Thoreau. When a law is put into effect that will convict a person who is a free thinker then it is a unjust law. One might as well break it because if no one stands up for the principle then than law will stay in effect until adverted again. In The Crucible, John Proctor, a farmer and village commoner, stood up for his principles. He had committed adultery and had absolutely no intentions of joining in the witch trials unless his pregnant wife were to also get involved. After his wife was accused of being a witch, he decides that he cannot accept the lie or the law any longer.
Proctor is a good and noble man and because of this he believes at first he can’t be hanged and die a martyr when he has this sin blooming over him every waking moment. John later says to Elizabeth that ” My honesty is broke, Elizabeth; I am no good man. Nothing’s spoiled by giving them this lie that were not rotten long before”(136) and rather confess then die for something he flat out did not do. However, as John confesses, he decides that he can not allow Danforth to make it officially documented. As Danforth asks him why John answers with a cry ” because it is my name.
Because I cannot have another in my life . . . How may I live without my name? Have given you my soul; leave me my name(143).
John feels strongly about having a good name and not dying with a bad one. Proctor weighs both sides of his internal conflict and realizes that he must not make another mistake. He therefore, prescribes himself to death, not for his own sake, but rather for the sake of the others. As John dies, Elizabeth weeps saying ” He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it away”(145).
In Inherit the Wind, Cates taught his high school students about Charles Darwins evolutionary theory. The law stated that Creationism was the only theory that could be taught. He was imprisoned for breaking that law. Cates belief in Evolution challenged the towns belief in Genesis. The Evolutionary theory had already been accepted by the rest of the world.
Cates risked his job to extend the knowledge to the closed community. He never backed down to others beliefs, not even his fiances. Though given the opportunity to back out of the whole ordeal, he never once flinched. Cates maintained his convictions even though he lost his job and the respect of the community.
Though unpopular, he kept true to his principles. Throughout history people have had to fight for their beliefs. They have also fought against unjust laws and will continue into the coming millennium. Both of them had to face unjust laws, even though one lost his life, they fought for their principles.