How does fear and hysteria play a significant role in creating and driving the conflict and the chaotic events that take place in Arthur Miller’s ‘ The Crucible’?
Fear is a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil or pain, whether the threat is real or imagined.1 It causes feelings of dread and apprehension. Fear can lead to hysteria- a condition where community wide fear overwhelms logic and ends up justifying its own existence. In Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, fear and hysteria are the foundation and antecedent behind the bedlam and conflicting events that take place in the community of Salem. It is the key factor that results in the degeneration of the community. It is fear and hysteria that incited the Salem Witch Trials and the fear that spawned a situation so complex that the very people who generated it were unable to fathom the series of events that were set in motion by virtue of their actions.
In the Introduction of The Crucible by Christopher Bigsby, Arthur Miller is said to have stated, “It was the maturation of hysteria at the time that pulled the trigger.”2 When fear evolves into hysteria, it is much less controllable and spreads like a wildfire. It is the fear that eventually matures into the hysteria that leads to the entropy of the community of Salem. “Neighbor looked upon neighbor with some suspicion, for fear that land would be reassigned. It was a “community riven with schisms.”3 Neighbors traduced about their neighbors. It was the fear of being accused themselves that lead them to accuse others. In the past, present and undoubtedly in the future, deceptive individuals take advantage of the anxieties and fears of society and it is no different in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.
In Act two, Hale says, “I have seen too many frightful truths in court- the Devil is alive in Salem, and we dare not quail to follow wherever the accusing finger points.”4 This is a representation of what the people of Salem feel in this...
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