English 2030- 81
12/ 02/ 2011
Hysteria and Suffering
Jumping to conclusions, bad assumptions, and false information can cause much hysteria within a society. This can be surely bad if you are dealing with people who are hypochondriacs. In The Crucible, Arthur Miller displays how hysteria is used to cover the truth, but can cause suffering for many of those who are innocent. The play strongly illustrates the hysteria that brushed through Salem because of the fear that Satan had haunted the town. When you have an entire society in an uproar it is usually because of false information being spread and people who are just reacting without thinking about what could possibly be happening. There are some people who do think through situations and they are usually the ones who help put the pieces back together. They are also the ones who can sometimes suffer when problems arise. Hysteria and overreacting can rip a community apart especially when searching for the truth; therefore people must deeply analyze certain situations and use their better judgment to resolve them. In Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, hysteria is one of the main themes. It is considered one of the main themes because it comes up often and often becomes the atmosphere of the play and the motivation of many of the character’s actions. Hysteria seems to be the central attitude or atmosphere of the play, once you get into it. Just to mention that the entire play represents a panic-stricken frame of mind. I think that Miller used hysteria as one of his main themes because he wanted to show how false information and bad judgment can cause large scale social and psychological consequences, when it at all possible can be avoided. Miller's play displays these historical events to criticize the moments in humankind's history when reason and fact became clouded by irrational fears and the desire to place the blame for society's problems on others. Dealing with elements such as false accusations, manifestations of mass hysteria, and rumor-mongering, The Crucible is seen by many as more of a commentary on "McCarthyism'' than the actual Salem trials (Oakes 107). The perfect example is at the beginning of the play when Miller introduces the scene where Reverend Parris is kneeling at the bed of his ten year old daughter is in a comatose state. The rumor throughout the town of Salem is that she has become sick due to witchcraft. One must know that if someone is accused of practicing witchcraft in Salem it is punishable by death. So the fact that this little girl has become ill from witchcraft has the town alarmed. Now the town is in shock and wondering. Who could have introduced witchcraft to the town? Who else could be possibly practicing witchcraft? Has the devil somehow gotten into the town? No one at first explores the possibility that the little girl could be faking it, or she could be actually sick with something. Everyone just assumes that they little girl has succumbed to the devil. The fear then spreads when the all of the girls who were essentially experimenting with witchcraft realized the serious and fear that they had caused, they begin to get other innocent people involved in the accusations to keep them from being exposed. It is here where the Reverend and the other adults involved could have contained the situation, but instead they chose to bring in a Pastor from another town which arouses the entire community. The residents of Salem begin to stop trusting the people who they have known for years all because of the possibility that they are devil worshippers. The only way for a person who was accused was to make false confessions by joining the accusers themselves. While the majority of the people who live in Salem believe that the devil is running rampant in their town, there are some who believe that it is just nonsense. In The Crucible, those who are accused at the beginning are just the town's outcasts, no so the...
Cited: Atkinson, Brooks. “Review of The Crucible, by Arthur Miller,” The New York Times. July 2,
The Crucible. Videocassette. Twentieth Century Fox , 1996.
Lorcher, Trent. Symbolism in the Crucible. Oct. 18, 2009 Bright Hub. Dec. 2,
Miller, Arthur. The Crucible (Penguin Classics). London: Penguin Classics, 2003
Oakes, James. "Chapter Four." Of the People: a History of the United States. New York: Oxford UP, 2011. 107+. Print.
Please join StudyMode to read the full document