The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, portrays the story of the Salem Witch Trials and the chaos brought with it. It illustrates how hysteria and lust for power can go out of control and create permanent change, along with damage. Throughout the story, we see how the empowerment of previously powerless individuals impacted the trials, along with how the actions of only a few people sparked the tragic event. The main person partially responsible for the trials is Abigail Williams. By attempting to cover up her actions in the woods, Abigail creates lies about witches that spread throughout the town, spreading hysteria and drawing away attention from her wrongs. This results in the accusations of many of the townsfolk living in Salem, blaming them for “witchcraft“ they never committed, further hiding her mistakes and guilt. Another individual who is also responsible for the trials is Reverend Parris.
He becomes responsible because of how he escalates the trials in such a rapid manner, not once questioning the honesty of the girl’s stories and accusations. The explanation for this may be that Parris used the confusion and hysteria of the town to his advantage, exaggerating the case to make himself look trustworthy to secure his position of power. preserving his place as a reverend. In a similar way, Thomas Putnam is also to blame, benefitting from the trials himself. As people are accused, they are forced to sell their land and property for a smaller price than they are worth, allowing Putnam to buy them and gain more control. To do this he uses his daughter, telling her to accuse those whose land he wants.
From reading The Crucible, the struggle for power is evident in Salem. The town follows a strict hierarchy, making the trials unique in that they empowered individuals normally looked down upon such as the young girls and Tituba, Tituba is able to voice all the hate she has for her master and get away with it saying it was “suggested by the devil”. The girls are able to accuse and imprison anyone they want within the town just by saying they saw them “with the devil”. This creates chaos and breaks the social order of the town, with people unable to speak against the girls in fear of being accused, In conclusion, the cause of the Salem Witch trials can be broken down as a lust for power, envy of others, greed, and fear. With high tensions already in the town before the events occurred, the trials became a flashpoint. blaming all the troubles the town was facing on ”witches” and using it as a way of gaining power. The Crucible, stands as a warning not to be swept up in fear and hysteria, and how it may be used to manipulate and destroy.
Hysteria in “The Crucible” leads to the loss of individuality and the erosion of personal freedoms. The accused individuals are denied the right to defend themselves, and their lives are at the mercy of the mass hysteria. The play explores the destructive consequences of a society that abandons reason and succumbs to the pressures of collective hysteria, ultimately sacrificing individual rights and dignity. “The Crucible” serves as a critique of the destructive power of hysteria and its ability to tear apart communities and ruin lives. Through his portrayal of the Salem witch trials, Miller highlights the dangers of unchecked fear, intolerance, and the manipulation of authority. The play serves as a cautionary tale, urging audiences to remain vigilant against mass hysteria and to safeguard the principles of justice and individual liberty.