The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, reflects on the inconsistencies of the Salem witch trials, as well as the intense actions that derive from dark yearnings and selfish motives. Miller’s play is based on a historical version of the Salem witch trials. The young ladies and slaves discovered in the forest attempting to call the dead spirits are the focus of the tale. Instead of facing harsh penalties for their conduct, the ladies accused others in Salem of witchcraft. Surprisingly, the girls avoided reprimand by accusing them of the same thing they were doing. This fraught and maybe foolish finger-pointing led to widespread fear where everybody was thought to be a potential witch. When the arrests made heightened, mistrust increased greatly. A sequence of mistrust, accusation, arrest, and conviction came up.
Miller establishes an ambiance and mood in the play suggestive of the past period and Puritan traditions. The residents of Salem resided in a restraining community. Even though the Puritans escaped from England due to religious maltreatment, they founded their new society upon religious prejudice. The Puritans depicted their faithfulness, sincerity, and truthfulness via labor and observance of religious principle. They regarded material and physical needs mainly sexual yearnings as the devil’s doing and a threat to the social order. The Puritans did not tolerate misdemeanors and punished people severely if they broke the rules. The Puritans’ way of life is what contributed greatly to the aggressiveness of the witch trials and the ensuing convictions.
Miller delves into how mass hysteria can destroy a community. Mass hysteria can be described as a social phenomenon where unreal terror and apprehension spread radically through the society. Hysteria is seen as the allegation of witchcrafts propagated all through Salem. The power of shared hysteria eventually becomes overwhelming since it superseded the influence of the few logical voices in the society (Miller 17). The widespread hysteria led to the death of many innocent victims. Each time the girls accuse a person of witchcraft in court, hysteria come into play. A girl could act as if she is cold or seen a spirit or is attacked by a spirit and would cry in terror and hurt, the other ladies would see that and catch on the emotion like a contagious illness and would behave as if they felt or saw the similar things or respond to the fear around.
In the first act when Abigail is asked about her actions in the forest, and she instead accuses Tituba of black magic to evade reprimand. Salem was already ripe with reports of witchcraft, and therefore everyone is ready to believe anyone who has been accused or is suspected to be involved in witchcraft. The first women accused were beggars and slaves so therefore, they fit the description of witch. Nobody thinks that the accusers are not telling the truth partially since they are perceived as innocent kids, and also a majority of the witches plead guilty to evade death sentence (Miller 25). Court officials are seen prosecuting anybody accused using the fake evidence of the forced confessions. Hysteria prevents the individuals of Salem from reasoning as they are certain that there is a huge satanic plan looming in town and they ought to deal with every individuals who are involved in the plan. This shows that terror could sway opinions of actuality even for the people who regard themselves logical in typical situations.
Prior to Abigail making the accusations, tales of witchcraft were rife in town, and it had come to be accepted as the truth by the many gullible people in the society. Ann Putnam is very quick to blame witchcraft and dark magic on the demise of her kids. Ann’s severe conclusions are slowly acknowledged since the logical individuals are afraid to confront the accord and risked bringing allegations against themselves. Hale’s participation is assumed to imply that there ought to be a mystical aspect to Betty’s sickness (Miller 22). Coherent elucidations are overtaken by the hype of the rumor and gossip and community yearns to see what benefits them. This is whatever gives them a good standing in the community and causes them to feel good about themselves in incidences that do not seem to have simple elucidations.
This hysteria starts when Abigail claims that Tituba and Ruth were summoning spirits in the forests. Parris is alarmed by the disclosure due to the harm it shall cause to his character. Thomas Putnam says to him “Wait for no one to charge you – declare it yourself.”(15). Parris ought to hurry to be the primary complainant so that he cannot be reprimanded. This is a dangerous approach that brings about fear as people are afraid for their lives rather than thinking rationally. Tituba is forced to admit and list the surnames of witches to evade capital penalty which results in Abigail and Betty’s allegations, now authenticated by a forced admission. This sadistic sequence keeps on claiming the lives of numerous individuals as the play continues. Tituba names people and gets praises for it, Abigail catches the hysteria and also starts calling names, and in the end, all the ladies are loudly shouting the names.
In the second act already 40 individuals have been jailed. Many confessed when they were threatened with the death sentence and this only increases the fearful environment. The court officials disregard any problematic rational opposition to the proceedings since they have also been pulled into the lunacy. The hysterical environment and the theatrical acts of the accusers caused individuals to think that there is enough evidence of witchcraft. Every new fake confession is combined with the other heap of proof of a huge satanic plan and hysteria continues to grow enormously. The hysteria-based proof of black magic entails the finding of the poppet in the Proctor home with a pin in it. Elizabeth’s narrative is not acknowledged since Abigail’s witness is theatrical. “She sat to dinner in Reverend Parris’s house tonight, and without word nor warnin’ she falls to the floor. Like a struck beast, he says, and screamed a scream that a bull would weep to hear. And he goes to save her, and, stuck two inches in the flesh of her belly, he draw a needle out.” (13). The concept of a witch’s common spirit having the ability to stab individuals is too frightening for the gullible and hysterical individuals to give Elizabeth a chance. Nobody even thinks of the possibility of Mary’s sticking the pin on herself. In this atmosphere, anybody who shouts the loudest is taken as the most credible.
The profundity of hysteria that has gripped Salem is seen as John eventually challenges the court. Danforth defends the manner in which the trials have been carried out and insists that just victim’s evidence serves as a steadfast proof in the trials. He is unaware that the victims could be untruthful. The court declines to face up to those who claim to be afflicted by witchcraft. When the appeal which testifies of the excellent personality of the accused females is given, the response from Danforth, Hathorne, and Parris is to capture the individuals put their signatories in the request instead of acknowledging that the women might not be guilty. Danforth is sure that “there is a moving plot to topple Christ in the country!” (35) and anybody who distrusts court’s choices is possibly involved. They dread the devilish implications of facing up to the accusers that they are ready to acknowledge their every comment and pay no heed to defenses the accused presents. No one considers the possibility of ulterior motives.
When Mary does not faint in the outside the court, mass hysteria is seen. She thought that she saw spirits previously since she got involved in the illusions of those surrounding her. Abigail sidetracks the adjudicators from any logical exploration into this doing by catching the frenzy as well. Danforth who is the most authoritative is completely persuaded, and only some screams convince him that it was real witchcraft. This results in Mary’s hysterical allegation of Proctor when she realizes she is the target by the other ladies and would be consumed by the hysterics if she does not take part in it.
The Puritan culture was heavily founded on religious beliefs. Puritan code was so strict that it was a crime to miss church and men and women sat on the opposite sides. People were required to suppress their viewpoints and emotions. The dress code was dictated by the church. They thought that all sins ought to be punished even sleeping in church. Misfortunes were seen as God’s will, and they never offered help. Following this very stringent code of conduct, it is understandable why the hysteria of witchcraft caught on and became widespread like bush fire. Witchcraft was a crime that was punishable by execution (Miller 5). Therefore, those accused of practicing as perceived as lawbreakers and outcast of the society and therefore deserved to die, so they do not infest the society.
Witchcraft was seen as a form of supernatural power which comes from the devil. Those practicing it implied that they have a connection with the devil. Hence that is why rumors of witchcraft spread so fast since it was something clearly prohibited in the society. The hysteria caught on since strict guidelines needed the people using dark magic ought to be punished and probably killed therefore it led to people accusing innocent people to save their own lives. Dramatic acts and behaviors of the girls were unheard of in the society, and therefore it alluded to witchcraft regardless of whether it was rehearsed or not. People knew the intolerance to such things, and therefore everyone had to save their lives by accusing another. If the puritan code was a bit tolerant perhaps innocent people would not have died.
Miller, Arthur. “The Crucible (1953).” The New York Times (1953): 15.