Fear’s Motivation Essay

1118 words - 5 pages

Aristotle once said, “Men are swayed more by fear than by reverence.” It’s generally known that fear is quite a motivator in any given situation. This is apparent in many real life situations such as the Red Scare or the Salem Witch Trials of 1962. Arthur Miller was a playwright victimized by McCarthyism in the Second Red Scare who related his experience to the Salem Witch trials. He was oppressed because he had Communist sympathies. In the midst of this oppression, he looked into the Salem Witch Trials and saw similarities to the Red Scare. In The Crucible, Arthur Miller shows his belief that humanity is driven by fear and self-preservation, often resulting in people abandoning their morals.

One of the driving fears that comes up quite often in The Crucible is the fear of a bad reputation. People fear others thinking badly of them and will often act to avoid being viewed as ‘different’ or badly by others, regardless of their morals. One example of this is Reverend Parris when he’s talking to Abigail after Betty falls ill: “But if you trafficked with spirits in the forest I must know it now, for surely my enemies will, and they will ruin me with it” (10). Parris saw the girls attempting witchcraft in the woods, yet as the play moves forward, he doesn’t say anything about it for fear of his enemies ruining him and taking away his reputation as a minister. If he had admitted to his household being involved in the first place, far fewer people would have died. He knew this, yet he continued to hide the truth to protect himself. It also comes up when Reverend Hale is speaking with John Proctor about the trials. Proctor asks Hale if he’s considered that the reason so many are confessing to witchcraft may be because they will hang if they deny it. Hale responds with, “I have. I – I have indeed. It is his own suspicion, but he resists it” (69). This reaction shows that Hale’s not sure of the honesty of the trials. As this suspicion grows throughout the play, he continues to work for the court and the unjust trials continue. At various points he tries to reason with the judges, but he doesn’t leave the court for fear he will lose his reputation as a godly minister and will be considered an improper Christian. Parris and Hale, two arguably godly men, prove that worry over how others think of you can override your virtue.

In such a theocratic society as Salem, losing your reputation as a godly person was quite a viable fear, as it could lead to serious harm. Fear of injury, death, and harm is another driving fear in The Crucible. This is apparent when slave Tituba is accused of witchcraft. When master Parris tells Tituba he will whip her to death if she doesn’t confess, Tituba replies, “No, no, don’t hang Tituba! I tell [the devil] I don’t desire to work for him, sir” (44). Logically, when threatened with death, Tituba confessed. In the face of death or serious injury, one is most likely to lie or compromise their true beliefs. Driven by...

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