The Crucible

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“I didn’t do it!”
“Fear is simply the consequence of every lie”~Fyodor Dostoyevski. Dostoyevski explains that fear and lying come hand to hand. Telling lies creates a fear of being discovered having told a lie. In addition, one only conjures a lie if there is something to hide. Therefore the discovery of secrets also induces fear. Fear, whether it be fear of life, or reputation, can heavily influence the actions of society. It possess the ability to impair the judgement and actions of people. Similarly, in The Crucible by Arthur Miller, the townspeople are completely ruled by fear. This fear is mainly caused by the strict punishments given to those who violate Puritan morals. It also brings along a sense that one must protect his own life and interests. This need for self-preservation leads to widespread denial and in some cases, even the accusation of others. Governed by the terror of Puritanical law, the townspeople learn to fear its consequences and become quick to deny and accuse others of witchcraft to save themselves, which ultimately leads to the tragic death of innocent citizens

Throughout the play, a stifling atmosphere of fear lingers over Salem. This apprehension is caused by the ever-growing possibility of being accused of witchcraft. During this period, even the mentioning of the word “witchcraft” struck a chord of uneasiness into people. Punishment for this crime was severe and “a hanging error” (18). Witchcraft is closely associated with hanging and being accused meant one is on his way to death. In addition, witchcraft, according to Judge Danforth, is considered “ipso facto, on its face and by its nature, an invisible crime”(100). Only “the witch and the victim” (100) may bear witness to the crime and “we must rely upon the victims [to] [...] testify”(100). The victims, in this case, are the children. Consequently, with such an unjust method of court, the townspeople’s fears are further augmented. Not only do they fear being accused, they fear that their lives will merely become a switch that a few children can turn on or off at a whim. Furthermore, they are intimidated by the judge, Danforth. “Near to four hundred are in the jails and seventy-two [are] condemned to hang by [his] signature” (87). His power as a judge allows him to essentially kill people with a flick on his pen and the facility to which he does so is terrifying. Therefore it is hardly surprising that rampant terror resides in the village. Also, the accusation of witchcraft brings one’s reputation into perspective. The fear of having one’s reputation damaged is another key contributor to the village’s overall uneasiness. In the entirety of the play, Parris is paranoid that being associated with witchcraft in any form will deteriorate his position as a reverend. He fears that “there is a faction that is sworn to drive [him] from his pulpit” (10) and that people may “compromise [his] very character” (11) if his “own household is discovered to be the very center of some obscene practice” (11). In addition, John Proctor not only exhibits fear for his reputation, but fear for his life as well. Proctor fears for his own life because he had an affair with Abigail. Lechery was punishable by hanging. In addition, if others discover his affair, it will dishonor his name. As a result of the strict laws imposed on Puritan society, fear finds its way into Salem, filling every possible aspect of life and leaving no crack overlooked. With nowhere to hide from this terror, the inhabitants of Salem are forced to find refuge in their lies instead.

A fear for existence causes the townsfolk to instinctively prioritize their own well being in an attempt for self preservation. This sense of self preservation naturally induces widespread lying and denial as the townspeople desperately struggle to maintain their own interests, whether they be life or reputation. Being affiliated with witchcraft automatically threatened one’s life and status. Reverend Parris,...
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