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In The Crucible, explain how Miller expresses themes such as hysteria, suspicion and...

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tierraallen | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 27, 2009 at 5:13 AM via web

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In The Crucible, explain how Miller expresses themes such as hysteria, suspicion and religion.

The Crucible

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

Posted September 27, 2009 at 5:47 AM (Answer #1)

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There are some points that can help guide you in the composition of this essay.  I believe that you will have to find the exact lines of text which will help support your essay.  We can use the basic Puritan Religion as the framework that helps to support the hysteria and suspicion in the play.  The Puritanical view of the world is a dogmatic one that lends itself to the emotional contagion that sweeps through Salem.  With its darkened view of human nature, absolutism that human sin is both inevitable and evil, and paranoia of "the other" in the form of witchcraft, Puritanism in both Salem's society and government allow a situation where fear and suspicion dominate and control the lives of its citizens.  Miller's depiction of Puritanism is one where there is complete repudiation of "the other."  There is little in way of understanding the outside forces, rather it seeks to negate them.  This makes Abigail's accusations of witchcraft and those that follow as completely accepted by those in the position of spiritual and political power in Salem.  Due to the fact that the Puritan religion does not tolerate any pluralistic spiritual voices nor seeks to integrate "the other" into its own way of life, but rather seeks to obliterate it for fear of taking away its own presence, the hysteria and suspicion that ensues is quite logical.  Miller identifies the religious order that is so fearful of the "the other" or an alternate perception of reality as a realm where individual voice, freedom, and pluralistic tolerance disappears quite quickly.  It makes sense that there can be a natural connection between Puritanism and McCarthyism because both define themselves as negating "the other" as opposed to understanding it, which is also why both social orders are fraught with hysteria and suspicion.

You should probably search through the text and find examples of Puritanism's inability to coexist with other forms of spiritual expression.  Identify lines and characterizations that show Puritanism and not being compatible with any other notion of the good.  Once this has been established, it becomes very clear that suspicion and fear are almost logical extensions.  I would also seek to find how townspeople begin to accuse one another and how the seeds of mistrust are sown after Abigail's original accusations are made.  In citing these examples, one is able to make the argument that the religion did not settle disputes, but actually, due to its dogmatic and rigid implementation, created the groundwork for increased accusations, fear, and suspicion that contributed to the dissolution of social and emotional bonds.

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