The Crucible Essay
Hysteria overshadowed logic and enabled the townspeople to think that their neighbors were acting out senseless and unbelievable crimes like dealing with the devil & murdering babies. In The Crucible, the townsfolk accepted and became active in the hysterical outbreak not only out of religious loyalty, but also because it gave them a chance to express repressed attitudes & to act on long-held grudges. The most obvious case was Abigail, who used the circumstances to call out Elizabeth Proctor of witchcraft and have her sent to jail. However, many others used the hysteria to their advantage as well. Reverend Parris strengthened his position within the village, no matter how brief, by making scapegoats of people like John Proctor who questioned his authority. The wealthy & ambitious Thomas Putnam gained revenge on Francis Nurse by convicting Rebecca, Francis’s wife, of the uncanny deaths of Ann Putnam’s babies. In the end, hysteria thrived only because people benefited from it. It postponed the principles of daily life and allowed the acting out of every dark motive & hateful urge under the pretense of justice. The witch trials were central to the action of The Crucible, & dramatic accusations/ confessions filled the play even beyond the confines of the courtroom. In the first act, even before the hysteria began, we saw Parris accuse Abigail of dishonoring him, and he then made a series of accusations against his parishioners. Giles Corey and Proctor responded in turn, & Putnam soon joined in, creating chaos even before Reverend Hale entered the scene. The entire witch trial system thrived on accusations along with hysteria. Proctor attempted to break the cycle with a confession of his own, when he admits to the affair with Abigail, but his confession is beat by the accusation of the act of dealing with the devil against him, which in turn demanded a confession. Proctor’s decision at the end of the play to die rather than confess to a sin that...
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