In the Crucible, Arthur Miller shows us how fear and suspicion can
destroy a community.
As the play develops, Miller shows us how fear and suspicion increase
and destroy the community. Throughout the play it becomes apparent
that the community gets more and more divided as time goes on. In the
beginning there were arguments about ownership of land between some of
the villagers. As the story progresses people fear for their own
safety and begin accusing their neighbours of witchcraft in order to
escape being hanged.
Salem became overrun by the hysteria of witchcraft. Mere suspicion
itself was accepted as evidence. As a Satan-fearing community, they
could not think of denying the evidence, because to deny the existence
of evil was to deny the existence of goodness; which was God.
In the 17th century a group of Puritans migrated from England to
America - the land of dreams - to escape persecution for their
As Arthur Miller tells us in the introduction to Act 1 'no one can
really know what their lives were like.' We would never be able to
imagine a life with 'no novelists' and 'their creed forbade anything
resembling a theatre or vain entertainment.' 'They didn't celebrate
Christmas, and a holiday from work meant only that they must
concentrate even more upon prayer.' They led a very austere and bleak
The people of Salem - from which the audience derive their "good" and
"evil" characters - were superstitious and highly religious, and their
Theocratic form of government offered them security and unity.
However, this strong religious background also offered the option to
use it misguidedly to promote the evil of false accusations. The
excessive and blind religious fanaticism created an evil atmosphere,
one that can be felt by the readers in both the dialogue and stage
Whilst living in a repressive society one can become paranoid,
permanently on guard, living an anxious life. Though things soon get
too intense and adolescent girls have no outlet for natural feelings,
so they take to dancing in the woods - an innocent enough pastime. In
a society that are forever on the lookout for any signs of the devil,
dancing can lead many to assume the worst - that they had 'trafficked
with spirits in the forest.' And that there were 'unnatural causes.'
This may not necessarily be true as when Parris first confronts
Abigail she denies it and says 'It were sport uncle!' She is trying to
save herself from punishment.
The fear of devils and witches lead to the problem in Act 1 which
never get resolved, just keep getting worse and worse. The major
problem then led to other fears - fear of punishment, fear of gossip
and a tarnished reputation.
Hysteria ensues as the townspeople of Salem consider there may be
witchcraft in their midst, and begin to recall friends and neighbours'
past actions that have been suspicious. This becomes clear when
Proctor says 'I'll tell you...