Manipulation Of Fear In The Crucible

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Arthur Miller’s inspiration for his play The Crucible resulted from his observation of the repetition of “witch trials" throughout history. All of these witch-hunts, especially the one that occurred in Salem, were bred from the political and social repression present in the communities. This communal repression influenced a hypocritical mindset, which then prompted some individuals to manipulate others’ fear in order to gain a breath of personal freedom. Through comparing the Red Scare to the trials of Salem and analyzing the repetitive nature of these horrific acts, Miller emphasizes the idea that it is human nature for people to turn to the manipulation of fear in order to liberate themselves from their present reality. Before the witch-hunts…show more content…
Many citizens of Salem felt that they had been wronged in some sort of fashion and longed for revenge. However, due to Salem’s strict political and religious system, people could not actively seek their vengeance. In order to achieve their revenge these individuals acted in a similarly hypocritical manner and accused their enemies of witchcraft. In this way, “old scores could be settled on a plane of heavenly combat between Lucifer and the Lord,” and people’s foes would be punished, whether morally just or not, in a way that the church found justifiable by their law (Miller 8). For instance, since Thomas Putnam’s brother-in-law was rejected for the position of minister, Putnam “felt that his own name, and the honor of his family had been smirched by the village, and he meant to right matters however he could,” and therefore he accused his enemies of witchcraft in order to gain revenge for an entirely different matter (Miller 15). He even went so far as to involve his daughter in the hoax, telling her to accuse certain people, for “the little crazy children jangled the keys of the kingdom,” meaning the church highly valued the children’s outcries of witchcraft (Miller 77). Hence, as individuals used accusation as a tool of expression, primarily revenge, other members of the community became frightened that they would be sought out as witches too, thus causing mass panic. Individuals, such as Putnam or Abigail, increased their power and manipulated others’ fear in order to fulfill their personal want and overall communal power. This brewed a form of group hysteria, built from “rampant suspicion, spiraling panic, a thirst for vengeance,” and enabled the community as a whole to end the lives of twenty people, all out of individuals’
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