Crucible Thesis Paper

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Hyped on Hysteria

The small, religious town of Salem, Massachusetts has become hell on earth as accusations of witchcraft spread like wildfire in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. The characters of this play must find ways to protect not only themselves but also the ones they love from being pulled into this predicament. The theme throughout the play is how the different forms of hysteria motivate characters to perform consequential actions.

One character that has gone practically insane from the idea that the devil is the cause of the loss of seven of her eight children during childbirth is Mrs. Ann Putnam. Her inability to birth many children has put her on the fritz and this becomes quite clear throughout Act I. Mrs. Putnam proves her desperation when she mentions, “I sent my child- she should learn from Tituba who murdered her sisters.” In her hysteria, she resorts to black magic to discover the supernatural occurrence of her children’s deaths. This hysteria driven action sets the rest of the play’s chaos in motion.

Abigail Williams is the quintessence of the “boy who cried wolf”. Once Betty, Abigail’s cousin, has become bedridden, Abigail needs to ensure that the other girls who participated in the ritual will not disclose their secret. “Now look you…we danced. And Tituba conjured Ruth Putnam’s dead sisters. And that is all… Let either of you breath a word… and I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down!” In a panicked attempt to conceal her secret, Abigail resorts to threatening the others. She accuses countless women and men of witchcraft to maintain her image of “doing God’s work” as the Reverends niece.

Once it is suspected that Betty is being possessed, Rev. Parris calls in Rev. Hale of Beverly due to the fact that he is a successful exorcist. Rev. Hale begins an interrogation on the girls who danced in the woods. As an uninformed outsider in Salem, Hale is easily convinced that powerful witchcraft is among them. Hale’s...
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