Hysteria, Reputation, and Hypocrisy in The Crucible by Arthur Miller

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Parris: "Aye, a dress. And I thought I saw – someone naked running through the trees.” The play, The Crucible, by Arthur Miller had very many themes in it. Some of these themes stood out more then others. These themes would be hysteria, reputation, and hypocrisy. These themes were present throughout the entire play, from the beginning till the end. When you think of a Puritan religion you may think of a very good, morally perfect society. This wasn’t the case in Salem, Massachusetts. It was actually the opposite in the play, there was lying, cheating, stealing and just about everything else you wouldn’t want in your society. Hysteria is defined by dictionary.com as “Behavior exhibiting excessive or uncontrollable emotion, such as fear or panic.” This was a critical theme in the play in which it was tearing apart the community. Hysteria replaces logic and allows people to believe that their neighbors are committing some unbelievable crimes such as, communicating with the devil, killings babies, and so on. Mrs. Putnam: Reverend Parris, I have laid seven babies unbaptized in the earth. Believe me, sir, you never saw more hearty babies born. And yet, each would wither in my arms the very night of their birth. I have spoke nothin’, but my heart has clamored intimations. And now, this year, my Ruth, my only – I see her turning strange. A secret child she has become this year, and shrivels like a sucking mouth were pullin’ on her life too. And so I thought to send her to your Tituba. (pg. 15) In Salem, it is a very hysterical society, and one of the more obvious cases is Abigail, she uses this situation in order to accuse Elizabeth Proctor of witchcraft and send her to jail. This is all in order to get John Proctor all to herself. There are many others that survive on hysteria to get by as well: Reverend Parris strengthens his position in the village and church by making people like Proctor, who question his authority, look stupid or look like they are on a lower level then him. One of the towns wealthiest townsperson, Thomas Putnam, get revenge against Francis Nurse by getting Rebecca, Nurse’s wife, convicted of killing Mrs. Putnam’s babies. Hysteria can only thrive because people in the town are benefiting from it. Mary Warren, with hysterical fright: What’s got her? Abigail stares in fright at Betty.

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