The Crucible: Hysteria and Injustice
The purpose is to educate and display to the reader the hysteria and
injustice that can come from a group of people that thinks it’s doing the
“right” thing for society in relation to The Crucible by Arthur Miller.
The play is based on the real life witch hunts that occurred in the late
1600’s in Salem, Massachusetts. It shows the people’s fear of what they felt
was the Devil’s work and shows how a small group of powerful people wrongly
accused and killed many people out of this fear and ignorance. Also important
to the play is how Arthur Miller depicts how one selfish, evil person like
Abigail Williams can bring others down and make others follow her to commit evil
acts. These evil acts affect even the most honest people in the town like John
and Elizabeth Proctor, and Rebecca Nurse who cannot fight the accusations made
against them by those following Abigail. Those following Abigail are considered
to be holy men that are full of honesty and justice, but the play shows that
even those who are thought to be respectable and right, like people of
government or community leaders can bring death to innocent people if they are
driven by something wrong.
The plot begins with the inciting incident where Rev. Parris finds his
niece Abigail Williams and his daughter Betty along with his slave Tituba doing
some dance in the forest. Right when he finds them, Betty becomes sick and
won’t talk or open her eyes, about this time other people’s daughters become
sick too. Rumors spread that witch craft is involved in Betty’s illness and the
development of the plot begins. Important to the major development of the plot
is the fact that in the forest, Abigail and the others were just playing like
witches. But they were following Abigail because she wanted to try to put a
curse on a lady named Elizabeth Proctor. Abigail was in love with Mrs.
Proctor’s husband, John Proctor, and she wanted to some how get rid of Elizabeth.
The problem was that as the rumors spread about the devil Abigail went along
with it and blamed the slave woman Tituba for forcing her to join the devil.
The rising action begins when Tituba out of fear of death starts naming people
that she says were with the devil when the devil came to her. This is all a lie
though because once Abigail blamed Tituba she did not want to turn the story
around and admit that she was lying in the first place because one, she was
afraid of the consequences of such a strong lie, and two, because she saw it as
an opportunity to get rid of Elizabeth Proctor.
The people of the town made everything worse when they tried hard to
find out who was teaming up with the devil. It was easier for them to blame the
devil for their problems of society than fix the problems of their own strict
way of life. So the girls involved with Abigail, like Mercy Lewis and Mary
Warren named many people of the town as witches. These people were put and jail
and would be hanged if they did not confess to the crime of devil worship or
witch craft. Another part of the developing plot is that John Proctor knows
Abigail and her friends are lying, but he is afraid to say any thing because
eight months before he had and affair with Abigail and did not want to be seen
by the town as a lecher, which means wife cheater. So, Mr. Proctor has to fight
with himself to come out and tell the truth or his wife might die because of
Abigail saying she was a witch.
The climax of the play is in the court room when John Proctor and Mary
Warren finally say that Abigail is lying and nobody was doing witch craft. But
Abigail is a good actor and liar and actually turns it around on Mr. Proctor and
says he tries to get every one to worship the devil. The court finds him guilty
of devil worship and wants to hang him if he does not confess. The falling
action of the play comes when Rev. Parris comes to court three months later and
says that Abigail has stolen all his money and has left town and he feels guilty
for the people who were accused by her and hung because of it. The court does
not want to admit they were wrong though because they feel the people will rebel
if they now come out and say “sorry, we made a small mistake”. So, since they
won’t let Mr. Proctor go, they want him to confess to save his life, here
another mini climax occurs because he does not want to sign a big lie. Since Mr.
Proctor felt guilty about what he did in his past with Abigail he decides that
now he will save his name with his pride and refuses to sign the confession. So
the resolution comes with John Proctor’s hanging, but it does not seem like any
thing was resolved, just that the people who accused the innocent people feel
very guilty with what they did.
I think the best character development is the one of John Proctor, a
farmer that lived in the town. He represents a person who is not perfect but
tries hard to be responsible for his family and himself. He is a strong person
who is not afraid to go against society because of what he feels. Since he
disagreed with the Rev. Parris’ sermons he didn’t go to mass and at first did
not get involved with the witch hunts. This shows that he was his own person.
The problem is that this caused him to be the main one to fight the court
because he was not friendly with the people who made up the court. His
motivation in the play is the search for the truth. He values his wife’s love
and the concerns of his children so he wants to be a good man and to him the
truth is very important in being a good man. His conflict though is his past
affair with Abigail and because of this he is hesitant to fight the witch
hunters and expose Abigail as a liar. But, he wants to be honest and save his
wife. So he has to be truthful and expose himself to the judgement of the
town’s people in order to save his wife and the other innocent people who are
Mr. Proctor’s friends are only his wife and later Rev. Hale, who at
first accused many people with Abigail but then saw how she was a liar and tried
to save John Proctor. The growth of John Proctor is from some one who tries to
find out who he is in the begging of the play to a person that dies for what he
believes in a society that wrongly accuses him. In the end he had what he
wanted most, integrity. He faced judgement but died in the end with the respect
of his wife and those who originally accused him.
IV. Point of View:
John Proctor’s view supports my thesis statement very well because
throughout the story he knew all along that the witch hunt was based on a huge
lie from Abigail Williams. So he saw the hysteria and the injustice that was
developing the entire time. He felt that the people of the court, Rev. Parris,
Rev. Hale, Judge Hawthorne, and Governor Danforth were killing people in the
name of God simply because of their fear of evil. They jumped to believe that
Abigail was right and that the devil was responsible for all the wrong in the
town. And, even though John Proctor knew all this and he was innocent he still
died from the hands of the small group of wrong people who thought they were
doing the right thing.
The insight to life is not to be so quick to follow the majority, they
are not always right. We should strive to think for ourselves on an individual
basis, we should not judge others because we all have faults, and we should
always look out for the hysteria that comes from the combined fears of ignorant
people. We should also realize that being an individual has bad effects
sometimes and even though we might be right we have to be brave when fighting
society because we will not always win.
I’m glad I read this play. Even though I’ve been told to think for
myself, I never saw such a good example of what happens when you don’t. The
play also had a lot of suspense , I kept wanting to hear the tapes to see what
happened to the characters in the end, it was never boring. I will now be more
aware of what happens when people are afraid of something and together try
wildly to get rid of what they think the problem is. My older brother said the
play “showed the same mentality of the German people during the Holocaust”, and
when I understood what he meant I say that it is a lot like the part in the
movie Beauty and the Beast when the character Gaston makes every body crazy to
kill the Beast just because Gaston feels he is evil. The people did not think
for them selves and believed some one else and because of that they almost
killed the Beast who was actually innocent.