Hysteria in The Crucible

Salem’s deteriorating social structure results in the murders of many innocent individuals. The Crucible deals with a community that is superficially knit tightly, however. Once the accusations of witchery begin, fear and suspicion sweep the town like a wild fire. When hysteria and hidden agendas break down the social structure, honesty cannot be trusted.

Isolation from any other group of people with different beliefs creates a society that isn’t able to accept a lot of change. The church is against the devil, yet at the same time it is against such things as dancing and premature acts. The reputation of the family is very important to the members of the community; when the girls were caught dancing they lied to protect not just themselves, but their family name. The unexplained was caused by the devil, so some members of the community used the unexplained to their advantage. The girls claim that the devil took them over and influenced them to dance, they also said that they saw members of the town standing with the devil. In Act I under pressure from Parris and Hale, Tituba names as witches two women suggested by Mr.Putnam “And I look-and there was Goody Good”(50), and she then added “Aye, sir, and Goody Osburn”(50). These type of rumors went on because people didn’t want any blame to be put on themselves.
Salem’s hysteria makes the community lose faith in the spiritual belief they are strictly trying to enforce. The church soon began to lose many of it’s parishioners because the interest of the town is focused on Abigail, as they anxiously awaited her to accuse another person of witchery. The legal system which is designed to protect it’s servants, was also tainted by corruption. The court shows itself to be incapable of seeing truth when presented with it. Abigail along with the other girls scare Mary into disavowing her testimony as they all act together as if they were being attacked by the spirit of Mary Warren; Abigail screams in the court “Mary, please don’t hurt me!”(pg.121). Furthermore, when Proctor approaches Mary she screams and points at Proctor saying “You’re the Devils man!”(pg.124).

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With an unjust legal system, the church no longer in contol of the community, and Abigail in control of the community’s attention, the people fall into a state of natural chaos. As the community continued to place blame on others to protect themselves, it is clear that surface presentations had tooken over goodness. Church and law became false and hollow. After the court refuses to believe John Proctor’s damning self admission of adultery, he is executed.

The breakdown of Salem’s social structure was the key in the tragedy that tore the community. When Tituba began pointing her finger at others, the community soon began to do the same. Neighbors who trusted each other began to accuse each other of witchery so that they themselves aren’t persecuted. This continued until the whole community was torn apart by the hysteria of the witch trials, and before they could realize it, they had lost good friends.

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