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Irrational behavior and conflict are constant themes throughout this play. One of the main conflicts in the play is jealousy. We see jealousy in Abigail because she wants Elizabeth’s husband, John Proctor; in Reverend Parris because he wants the respect that he sees others receiving that he lacks; in the Putnams because they only have one child who survived infancy compared to the Nurses who have many children and grandchildren. These people who display this jealousy act irrationally in that they accuse others, whom they are jealous of, of witchcraft for their own benefit. It is not as if they are accusing these people of a small crime in which they will be lightly punished; they are accusing them of a crime punishable by lifelong shame and embarrassment, prison time, and death. A second type of conflict that is seen here is fear. Many of the people of Salem fear that they will be accused. In fearing this, they side with the girls, no matter how ridiculous their charges seem. Much of Salem turned into mass hysteria because the villagers believed anything that the girls said, in fear that they too would fall victim to them if they questioned anything. This is another example of irrational behavior – believing anything just to save themselves from accusation.
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