Fear – The Crucible

Table of Contents

Fear – The Crucible is a powerful tale of struggle, fear and panic, set against the backdrop of the Salem Witch trials. Being discovered by Reverend Paris in the woods dancing naked, singing Tituba’s Barbados songs and drinking chicken blood to cast spells is turned to Abigail’s advantage. She and her friends soon manufacture a web of lies that ultimately leads to her manipulating a whole town. The power proves seductive. Accusers blame, in order to gain power, creating a fear of the consequences of even the most innocent action. The fear that comes from this night causes even the most trustworthy townsfolk to convict people of witchcraft for their own gain. Salem is controlled by hysteria and fear, people irrationally acting on old grudges to gain land, livestock or just to stay alive.

Arthur Miller’s Crucible book, (1)A major theme in The Crucible is the way hysteria can rip apart a community. Hysteria changes the way people think and forces them to consider their friends to have committed horrible crimes. At the very core is fear leading to a subconscious ‘strike or be struck’ reaction. Striking out first with accusations fuelled by their religion and desperate protection of their reputation, gives permission to prosecute people over grudges and old resentments in a bid to become immune from prosecution themselves. As the ramifications played out, hysteria quickly engulfed the whole community with the townsfolk needing to watch their words and actions. Simply saying the devil’s name could lead to being thrown in jail. Abigail is caught dancing in the woods by Reverend Hale with her friends. She is even caught drinking chicken blood, trying to use dark magic to kill Goody Proctor.

Yet when confronted she is backed into a corner and takes the only action, she felt would save her, to cry witch. This starts Abigail’s encompassing control on Salem and the havoc that will rock the town. But as Abigail gets deeper and deeper into this lie, convicting more and more people, it becomes harder to make her own decisions. Abigail needs to keep up the belief with the town that she is not faking a connection with the devil knowing if the church found out, she would be done for. The control she has on the town means that she can convict who ever she likes, without punishment. The only way out of being convicted is to plead guilty and serve time in prison thereby blacken your name. The alternative pleading innocent may save your reputation but ultimately lead to being hung. Abigail controlled people by fear. Fear of being labelled as being in communication with the devil. Fear of losing their reputation in the town. Fear of dying as a sinner and going to hell. Fear of what God will do to you. All these factors led to a do or die situation in Salem, causing the townsfolk to turn on each other, their friends, their neighbours, profiting from the land and livestock left behind by the convicted. At the root of our human need is to be safe and secure, neither could be counted on in Salem.

John Proctor’s affair with Abbigail was over by the time the book started but the repercussions of this affair sent ripples that were felt through the entire book.

Abbigail believed that John Proctor was still in love with her, when he actually was not. Abbigail accuses Johns wife of witchcraft, to remove her from the picture, leaving Abbigail to assume that she can now be John’s wife. But when John confesses to being an adulterer, the confession catches Abbigail and Johns wife Elizabeth by surprise. Elizabeth lies to protect her husband, to protect his reputation. The court rule they are both witches sentencing John and Elizabeth to be hung for witchcraft. Abigail’s plan falls apart and destroys the very essence that sparked the deceit in the first place. These are the unplanned consequences caused by lying and deceiving. Tituba’s false confession is also an example of unknown consequences at play. Tituba’s false confession was as a result of her performing witchcraft in the effort to end her masters beating. The girls consciously realise that they hold power and can accuse anyone they want. Consequences are forgotten in their pursuit of what they desire. Giles Corey, another unfortunate character that underestimates the hysteria in Salem, tells Reverend Hale that his wife sometimes hides books from him. This small bit of information was enough to cause his wife and himself to be accused of witchcraft, leading to his own death.

This volatile situation caused an fear of religion.But this system only works if someone is benefiting. Take Abigail sending the innocent Elizabeth Proctor to jail for witchcraft so she can pursue a relationship with John Proctor. She couldn’t have predicted John Proctor would try to save his wife and confess to adultery leading to both John and his wife Elizabeth getting hung. But Abigail isn’t the only one looking to benefit. Reverend Paris also boosts his position in the town by using people like John Proctor as a scapegoat thus getting rid of those who would question his authority. And when Thomas Putnam looks to get revenge on Rebecca’s husband by convicting Rebecca Nurse of supernaturally killing Goody Putnam’s babies, it goes largely unquestioned. The normal rules of life are superseded by a will to act on an evil desire, covertly disguised by righteousness and it is unsettling how quickly and readily the townsfolk allow this to happen.

These witch trials didn’t turnout like they were meant to in Abigail’s eyes. All the lies, fear, hysteria and unforeseen consequences changed Salem’s townsfolk forever. Things were said and actions taken that could not be undone and became the foundation for the future. The fear that was created by Abigail causes the whole town to turn against each other, leaving some like Thomas Putnam better off with more property or livestock but others with no income, in jail or paying the ultimate price with their life. These hysterical, fearful times were all caused by a teenager’s love for someone that was just out of reach, driving her crazy and later on, driving the whole town crazy. This fight for love drove some to act in ways that would be unimaginable in any other situation, not even to Abigail that started fire that would slowly burn down the humanity and the companionship of Salem.


(1) Wikipedia. 2019. The Crucible – Wikipedia. [ONLINE] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Crucible. [Accessed 23 November 2019].Fear plays a major role in The Crucible and is the main reason why the village of Salem dealt with the witchcraft incidents so badly. Throughout the trials of the people living in Salem no evidence was found to convict anyone of witchcraft. Instead the word of a group of young girls was taken as the truth because nobody dared question people who had seen and encountered the devil so the idea that they girls were lying was not one that could be easily substantiated. This is because before the events of Salem it was rare for people to lie about issues of such magnitude because they were so scared of the possible repercussions. This meant that when Abigail Williams began the charade and started to lie for the first time that somebody was no longer afraid of the repercussions and considered themselves to be above one of the most fierce rules around. This is the focal point of The Crucible and it is from Abigail Williams” inability to tell the truth or respect authority that the fear of others develops. An example of this is the fear of John Proctor who is forced to be forever under the judgement and apprehension that Abigail will tarnish his good name because of his affair with her.

This means that Abigail could ruin the life of a normally good man because of a single indiscretion that he made and that his wife was fully aware of. It is unlike John Proctor to be afraid of anyone in this way because he is usually physically and mentally a pillar of strength and an esteemed member of the community. This makes his fear more powerful as it is so out of character. The reason why he is so afraid of Abigail ruining his name is that he has an immense pride concerning his heritage and is generally a very proud man. If the rest of Salem were to find out about his lechery then he would go down in their estimations.