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How does mass hysteria play in the following siutations: Mary's inability to faint...

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brimarie97 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 18, 2012 at 11:38 PM via web

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How does mass hysteria play in the following siutations:

Mary's inability to faint when called on.

Danforth's belief in the girls.

the change in Mary's testimony.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 8, 2013 at 11:14 AM (Answer #1)

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The original question had to be edited down.  I think that Danforth's eagerness and ease with which he believed the girls was a situation in which mass hysteria played an important role.  Danforth clearly recognized that his own prestige and stature was contingent on the girls' story of accusation and witchcraft being believed and accepted.  If he questions their story and makes them suspect, then his own status becomes questioned.  Danforth recognizes that mass hysteria is what enabled him to possess power and to be perceived as important.  Mass hysteria is what allows this to happen.  Failure on this end to acquiesce to mass hysteria in terms of supporting the girls means a loss of credibility.  In many respects, people like Danforth and Hathorne are "riding the wave" of public fear and hysteria in order to see their own social positions consolidated.  If they are not able to use this to their own advantage, then their own prestige drops.  It is for this reason that mass hysteria plays a major role in Danforth's acceptance of the girls' stories and his support of them.

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