Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work. The novel The Crucible contains three central themes. The first being hysteria and how it can rip apart what seems like a content community. The second theme of the story, reputation, plays a key role because in theocratic Salem, it was extremely important to have an untarnished reputation. The third theme is based on intolerance and how because of the community thinking in solely "black and white."
Once the word of witchery became known, a mass paranoia swept the town of Salem. People who have known each other for years turned on each other. Citizens of Salem become involved with this hysteria to act on long-held grudges. The most apparent act of this is Abigail crying witchery on Elizabeth Proctor to have her killed in order to be with John. Hysteria can only survive if people feed off it. It allows people to take advantage of a situation and act out every dark desire under the truth.
The second theme of The Crucible is how reputation plays an important role to an individual. People feared being labeled with a bad reputation by association. For example, Parris fears his name that he has been trying to build up for so long will be tainted because of suspicions arising around Abigail hints at witchcraft and his daughter's slumber. Another example is John Proctor waiting a long time to confess his adultery with Abigail, and later refusing to hand over his confession of performing witchcraft, saying, "I have given you my soul; leave me my name!" For this, he redeems himself for his previous actions by dying with his "goodness."
The third theme in the play is the intolerance of the townsfolk and the court. They believed that there were only two types of people in the community, those that were good and those that were evil. "A person is either with this court or must be accounted against it," is a perfect example from Danforth in Act III. If they...