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Fear Promoting Lies
There have been many incidents throughout history where people were forced to be afraid of their peers. At these periods in time, a certain mass hysteria swept the area. Decisions were greatly influenced by the fear of their peers, leading them into governing their life by the public opinions of that time. Throughout The Crucible it is evident that the characters feel as if they lead a public life. Whether it be a reverend, a judge, an accuser, or defendant they live their life by public opinions. This is why in The Crucible; an individual must fear that a friends sin will taunt his or her name pressuring them to immorally condemn others while keeping themselves free of accusations.
All of the characters in The Crucible, exhibit a fear of the public, especially Reverend Parris. Throughout the play, Paris tries to avoid being in the public eye, he knows about witchcraft and the scandal caused in other counties nearby and wishes to keep it out of his household. This is clearly evident in the beginning of act I when Paris says, Abigail, I cannot go before the congregation when I know you have not opened with me. What did you do with her in the forest? (Miller, 1093) A sensation of fear is portrayed on that page through the stress that he is shown to exhibit. He constantly hammers the Abigail with redundant questions trying to realize a way he can resolve this issue calmly. The SparkNotes Internet Commentary immaculately explains the writer say, His first concern is not the endangerment of the immortal souls of young girls, but the trouble the scandal will cause for him. It is possible that members in the community would make use of a moral transgression to ruin Parris. (SparkNotes, Ward Selena) This idea, not only demonstrates Paris s actual concerns, but it also shows that he fears that the community will not accept his sermons, nor will they accept him. This leads Paris into leaving him no decision but to live his life in public and fear the communities opinions, otherwise he would be a threat to the moral public good. (SparkNotes, Ward Selena)
Living his life publicly although is merely one way that Paris avoids being held hostage in the public eye. He [Paris], in a somewhat subliminal way, incorporates himself in his sermons to leave a good impression on himself. His utmost concern is not the way the congregation looks up to god, but the way they look up to him. He also sermons the crowd to provide him with material goods. However, it is obvious that his emphasis on hellfire and damnation arises from an attempt to coerce the congregation into giving him more material benefits out of guilt. (Spark Notes, Ward Selena) states Selena Ward. The people of Salem realize that they are being coerced into this fraudulent activity but cannot act upon this in the fear that it will later taunt them.
Paris is not the only one that feared the way public opinion would taunt him. Mary Warren faced several decisions in The Crucible in which fear affected the way she acted in response to these situations. An exemplary example of fear and her circumstances affecting her decisions is when she gives Elizabeth Proctor the doll consisting needle inside of it. Mary Warren is aware that there is a needle inside placed by Abigail, but does not bring it to Proctors attention. Once the doll was found and the court precessions took place, Mary Warren s integrity is tested. She is put in the middle with two opposing forces on each of her sides, with a choice to make. Her decision is evident before she makes it when she says, She ll kill me for sayin that! PROCTOR continues toward her. Abby ll charge lechery on you, Mr. Proctor! (Miller, 1129)
Abigail s powers of inflicting fear on to Mary Warren leads her to betray the trust of Proctor and go against his authority. (MasterPlots, pg. 1411) In Selena Wards analysis on this topic she says, She [Mary Warren] refuses his authority to restrict her activities by invoking her own power as an official of the court, a power that Proctor can not easily deny (SparkNotes, Ward Selena) These quotes eloquently show the way power and fear settle in to give absolute power to the accusers, and no power to the defendant. This type of situation causes mass hysteria throughout Salem by putting power into the people that will taunt a friend in order to relieve pressure and gain authority.
As the play progresses, it is evident to many of the characters that witchcraft does not exist, and never did exist, but this does not cause an end to the witchcraft proceedings. In act IV Danforth leaves Proctor a decision to make whether to live or die. Danforth perfectly understands that Proctor is not a witch, but realizes to keep his own slate clean, and keep palaver of him off streets of Salem, he must prove Proctor to be a witch. His fear of public opinion causes a life or death situation to Proctor by forcing him to sign a paper that he is in fact a witch. I have confessed myself! Is there no good penitence but it be public? God does not need my name nailed upon the church! God sees my name; God knows how black my sins are! It is enough! (Miller, pg. 1129) Proctor says this at the end of act IV but this is not enough for Danforth. He [Danforth] wishes for Proctor by making him fear for his life. By signing this note, Proctor is also implicating six other people therefore advancing the hunt for witchcraft and showing the people of Salem that these witch hunts were in fact legitimate. Proctor wishes not to defend himself by sullying the names of others because this would be against his own moral code. (SparkNotes, Ward Selena) His moral code stopped the progression of the witch-hunt, which leads to the play s end.
After careful analysis of the play, it becomes evident that it was mass hysteria lead to the extermination of hundreds of people. But what brings on this mass hysteria? Fear is one of the leading factors. Each character would have probably acted differently if public opinion, law, and the fear of a peer s sin did not pressure them. It is also interesting to observe the escalation, and direct proportion of fear and consequences throughout the story. As the story begins, Reverend Paris s only fear is having a bad name, but as the story ends, one s fear is escalated to death. A character s mentality is also affected, as the consequences get worse, one feels that the more people that they condemn, the more pure they will be. It is mentality like this that cause such events as the Salem witch trials, and the search for communists in the McCarthy era that use fear to cause mass hysteria resulting in degradation and tyranny leading to death of innocent people.
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