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Fearing fear in The Crucible
The word “fear” can be defined as: a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger or discomfort. In his play The Crucible, Arthur Miller addresses the fear embedded inside Puritan society. According to the Public Broadcasting Service, “Puritans lived in a continual state of spiritual anxiousness, looking for signs of God’s favor or anger.” This anxiety propelled the Salem Witch Trials and made them very tough to stop. Consequently, Miller proves that fear had been the Puritans’ fatal flaw.
Initial and foremost, Tituba begins the chain of accusations due to worry. When Abigail accuses her of calling the Devil, Tituba is backed into a corner. She confesses to witchcraft right after Parris threatens, “You will confess oneself or I will take you out and whip you to your death, Tituba!” (Miller 44). Then, Tituba is pressured into accusing other individuals of witchcraft. Hale asks her, “When the Devil comes to you does he ever come– with another particular person?” With this question, an accusation could be avoided, but Parris interrupts with, “Who came with him?” implying that Tituba should name somebody (45). Afterwards, Tituba is asked a series of demanding queries such as: “Did you ever see Sarah Good with him? Or Osburn?” and “Was it man or woman came with him?” till she finally cracks and starts describing who she accuses (46). Hence, Tituba is given no other decision but to pick: confess to and accuse other individuals of witchcraft, or be killed. Consequentially, Tituba’s fear of death results in the beginning of the Salem Witch Trials, in which nineteen people have been unjustly sentenced to death. The Salem Witch Trials greatly contributed to the finish of Puritanism simply because they revealed the fear and corruption that was hidden in Puritan society.
Furthermore, Mary Warren’s fear of exclusion causes her to turn on Proctor. Of course, Mary fears for her life, but she feels protected when she belongs to a group. For instance, she has no difficulty pretending to be chilled by imaginary spirits when she is with Abby and the other girls. However, she is unable to reenact this by herself to prove to the court that the girls are only pretending to see spirits. When she is in court as Proctor’s witness, she tries really tough to inform the truth. But, when Abigail and the girls pretend to see her spirit as a bird, she can not stand to be singled out and excluded. The stage directions study: “Gradually Abigail and the girls leave off, till only Mary is left there, staring up at the “bird,” screaming madly (118). The moment Mary Warren is left by herself, she turns on Proctor and accuses him of dealing with the Devil. For that reason, Mary Warren turns her back on the truth due to the fact she is afraid to be the outcast. Worry not only proves to be fatal to John Proctor, but also to Puritanism itself due to the fact it shows that the stress to match into Puritan society was so excellent that people were prepared to abandon their morals to do so.
Last but not least, Danforth fails to put an finish to the Witch Trials simply because he fears losing his peace of mind. He knows that he has convicted several men and women of witchcraft, and he does not know how he will live with himself if they turn out to be innocent. This leads Danforth to continue hanging people in an attempt to convince himself that he is doing the proper thing. Danforth states, “Them that will not confess will hang. Twelve are currently executed the names of these seven are offered out, and the village expects to see them die this morning. Postponement now speaks a floundering on my part reprieve or pardon should cast doubt upon the guilt of them that died till now” (129). By means of this, it is clear that Danforth’s fear of becoming incorrect prompts him to lie to himself and continue the vicious cycle of convictions. The fear of being wrong was devastating to Puritan society due to the fact it directly connected to corrupt leadership.
Overall, by means of the consequences of his characters fears, Miller is able to prove that worry is the Puritans’ fatal flaw due to the fact it drove the society to a state of immorality and corruption. Every individual’s fear for his/her own life expense the lives of many other people. Fear has usually battled with morality, and it often will.
Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. New York: Penguin Books, 1976.
“People & Tips: The Puritans.” PBS. PBS. Internet. 16 Dec. 2014.
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