“I have found it easier to identify with the characters who verge upon hysteria, who were frightened of life, who were desperate to reach out to another person…These seemingly fragile people are the strong people really (Williams: Twenty Years after Glass Menagerie).” Tennessee here captured the very essence of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. The Crucible is all about the desperation, hysteria, and fear of Salem’s people. The main theme of The Crucible is fear. Hysteria and fear are so closely linked they are practically synonymous. Hysteria is the main reaction to fear. When a person is hysterical, they are paranoid, apprehensive, and their body undergoes “fight-or-flight response.” According to my online health class (I guess I did learn something…how strange) during fight-or-flight, a person either wants to run away from their fear, or fight it. Arthur Miller was feeling hysteria at the time of The Crucible; therefore his characters were as well. They felt the way he was so that he could better identify with them and write a great story. Throughout history, hysteria has proven to be a mass motivator and driving force behind many societies. Arthur Miller was born right after WWI; however he was able to see the affect it had on his family. In 1929, he was able to see closely the affects of mass hysteria when the stock market crashed and caused his family to lose their home. While attending college, Miller switched his major from Journalism to English at the University of Michigan, and eventually wrote The Crucible (Arthur Miller Biography, Galvin).
At the time of The Crucible, WWII had ended, and America was full into the Red Scare. The Red Scare is far less well known than WWII, yet it had a much greater effect on Arthur Miller and his story. The Red Scare was the search for Communists in America. This search was brought on by the fear that WWII caused. It brought around mass hysteria that was, oddly enough, centered on the artists...
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