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The Crucible By Arthur Miller: Analysis Of Themes

1537 words - 6 pages

Throughout the history of this country, Americans have shown that they are far from immune to the distorting and chaotic effects of emotion on their decision-making; and in a nation where the will of the people can determine the fate of laws, trials, and politicians, the public’s mental state can have a drastic and sometimes regrettable sway on the course of history. For example, whether one agrees with the Iraq War or not, it cannot be denied that much of the popular support drummed up at its outset was due to the intense public emotion in the aftermath of 9/11 – the war has since claimed 4,200 American lives. During the Cold War, the rise of McCarthyism and anti-Communist paranoia led to the accusation and investigation of thousands of law-abiding citizens – often leading to the demise of their careers and sometimes even imprisonment. Arthur Miller, the author of The Crucible, was himself subject to accusation and aggressive questioning about his supposed Communist activities, thus giving him a frightening glimpse into how those accused of witchcraft must have felt some 260 years prior in Salem, Massachusetts. This undoubtedly influenced the themes he wove into his play, as an analysis of its plot and dialogue reveals that nearly all of the tragic events described in it were brought about by the power of fear and hysteria.The mass panic in The Crucible had its roots, as irrational fears often do, in something true or legitimately worrisome. In this case, it was the mysterious illness of Rev. Parris’s daughter, Betty. She had fainted the night she was discovered by her father with a group of other girls in the forest, and had been in a seemingly coma-like state ever since; Rev. Parris was understandably scared, and eagerly sought a cure for his daughter’s condition. Initially he went to the local doctor for help, but medical knowledge was still primitive at the time, and no diagnosis could be made. This lack of reasonable explanation was a source for panic, and thus opened the door wide open for another, more superstitious theory about the source of his daughter’s ailment - witchcraft.Witchcraft was exactly the topic that Rev. Parris had hoped to avoid. He was poorly respected as a minister, and was afraid that his already-endangered position within the community might suffer more still with the taint of the devil upon his home. Hoping to get a head-start on the rumors that were sure to spread, Parris angrily questioned his niece Abigail about what had gone on the night she went with the other girls into the forest. If she revealed that his suspicions were true, he’d be in a very tight spot, as he explained to her in the opening scene:“Parris: Now look you, child, your punishment will come in its time. 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” (Miller 10).Abigail had a reputation of her own to worry about, however,...

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