Hysteria In The Crucible And The Red Scare

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Mass hysteria is a phenomenon that has repeated itself throughout history and is characterized by fear, paranoia and irrational behavior or beliefs by a group of people. In The Crucible, Arthur Miller uses the mass hysteria and irrational overreaction during the Salem Witch trials as an allegory to address the hysteria over the perceived threat posed by Communists in the U.S. known as the Red Scare. All three events vary in the intensity of hysteria as well as the size of the hysterical population, although similarities such as the use of scapegoats, accusations based on insubstantial evidence, and irrational accusations and exaggerated emotional reactions found in both The Crucible and The Red Scare can also be applied to the current hysteria …show more content…

In The Crucible, the hysteria is mainly focused around the small town of Salem Massachusetts, as opposed to the Red Scare where the hysteria was widespread across the U.S. The Ebola outbreak, however, has become worldwide as more and more countries begin to fear the spread of the disease. The U.S. has become especially hysterical, paranoia has replaced initial fear, fueled by media hype and. In a recent CNN article, author Saeed Ahmed discusses the irrationality of the situation, "Fear-bola attacks the part of the brain responsible for rational thinking, it starts with a low-grade concern about the two health care workers diagnosed with Ebola in Dallas and slowly builds into fear of a widespread epidemic in the United States." (Ahmed). The Salem Witch trials were a result of a spiritual/religious movement with the goal of uncovering and eliminating supposed witchcraft, while the Red Scare was a political movement with the goal of uncovering and eliminating communists in the U.S. Ebola is not a spiritual movement, nor a political movement, although in an article, Paul Vallely writes “Ebola is a medical disease and a political disease” (Vallely). The hysteria and stigma surrounding Ebola has created a bubble of fear and paranoia over the U.S. which has prompted Americans to make grandiose and irrational claims, going as far …show more content…

For all three examples of mass hysteria, the hysteria originally began as minimal before spiralling out of control as more and more people became involved or more false accusations and theories were made. The intensity and rationality of the hysteria varies for each event, in The Crucible, the people of Salem fear a perceived threat to which they begin to make false connections in order to support their accusations, such as the Putnam’s who accuse Rebecca Nurse of witchcraft after seven of Goody Putnam’s infants have died after being delivered by Rebecca Nurse. No substantial evidence is provided to support this accusation and in the midst of hysteria, the people of Salem begin to see how they can personally benefit from the fragile situation, and in the Putnam’s case, to gain revenge. Individuals during the Red Scare who were believed to be communists or associated with communist activity were charged, arrested and or detained, same for individuals believed to practice or be associated with witchcraft were arrested and expected to confess or hang. The same harsh ultimatum was given to the accused in the Red Scare, denying communist ties or affiliations only made the court more suspicious. These individuals faced difficult decisions as their lives and future were placed in jeopardy, as compared to individuals who have been

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