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The Crucible: Devices Used To Create Hysteria

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Introduction

Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" is superficially about the story of how one girl, of the lowest class, created paramount chaos in a brief time span, in the small town of Salem, Massachusetts. The girl, named Abigail, manipulated the townspeople to become stricken with fear and terror. Underneath this external layer lies the story of persecution, deception and fallacious accusations. It is about how the social hierarchy of a seemingly rational town could be disarrayed, how deceit can become truth, how people can be wrongly victimized and condemned. Mostly, it is of how one person can disturb the peace of a society, creating vast amounts of hysteria. One of the most important devices used in The Crucible is the one of the antagonist herself, Abigail Williams. She is described in the play as being a "strikingly beautiful girl, an orphan, with an endless capacity for dissembling" (page 8-9). She is a stunning, bewitching teenager of seventeen years, however, she is able to conceal and hide her true motives, thus making her the perfect villain for the story. She has the typical femme fatale persona, one who brings disaster to men and all others who are unfortunately entwined in her sick games. ...read more.

Middle

"That woman will never lie, Mr. Danforth." (page 92) "In her life, sir, she have never lied. There are them that cannot sing, and them that cannot weep - my wife cannot lie." (page 111) Throughout Act III, Proctor insists that his wife is incapable of lying as she is a good Christian and has had no reason to do so before. When Danforth asks Elizabeth to acknowledge that Proctor is indeed a lecher, she answers "No, sir" (page 113). Elizabeth lies out of her love and devotion to Proctor, however, she unknowingly sends the entire town to pandemonium by doing so. As Elizabeth is taken out of the room, Proctor shouts "Elizabeth, I have confessed it!" (page 113), in which Elizabeth responds "Oh, God!". It is at this precise moment that Elizabeth discovers what she has done. There is little symbolism in the play itself, however, the play as a whole can be interpreted as a representation of the obsession of denouncing communism that occurred in America in the late 1950's. It was during this time that Arthur Miller wrote this play, in which he himself was indicted for being pro-communism. ...read more.

Conclusion

In Act III, he confesses his adultery, trying to save his wife, and ultimately the town from falling into hysterics. "I have known her, sir. I have known her." (page 110) However, by the time his guilty plea is heard, it is overdue. The entire town had, was and is in delirium, and it was too late to change it before further damage could be down. In the end, Proctor was able to realize that he was unwilling to live his life based on a lie (false confession). Because of this awareness, as well as his wife's forgiveness, Proctor was finally able to forgive himself, finally able to obtain true peace with himself as he faces the gallows. "The Crucible" is an effective tool used by Arthur Miller to reflect the society of 1950s America. Both time periods were that of hysteria, confusion and false persecution. It demonstrates how society can be altered by one person, for better or worse, and of how society can be led to its ultimate downfall in an instant. The main intention of this play, however, is to illustrate how hysteria can only thrive if there is benefit for others, and of how hysteria is not the cause of problems, but rather the effect of it. Kelly Wong 10.1 January 9, 2009 Kelly Wong 10.1 January 9, 2009 ...read more.

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