What are some ways in the story that the masses of people are controlled by using religion and fear?

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

We do not really see the masses being controlled in the play.  It is really more implied -- not stated.  We only can see that control implied in the actions of the people that we see in the play.

Perhaps one of the most obvious examples of this is what happens to the people who sign the petition that John Proctor brings to court.  Danforth orders that all of the people who signed it should be arrested.  This would surely tend to control people through fear -- they would not want to expose themselves to that kind of trouble so they would try to go along with what the authorities want.

When I think of control through religion, I think of using religious belief to make people want to obey the authorities.  I don't see that going on in this play.  What I see is religion being used as a source of authority -- the court is meeting because the church has the authority to punish people who do not act according to what it says.  But to me, this is just using fear to enforce religion, not using religion to control people.

mkcapen1's profile pic

mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

There are strong undertones within the play that indicate the control by religion and fear.  The superstitions of the people when Abigail makes up the stories about having pins put into her or being pinched and that it was caused at the hand of witchcraft indicate that fear propelled them to want to get rid of the witches.  An indicator of the power of religion is that the minister was called in to make a decision if the people were witches or not.  Between the minister’s questioning and the town’s fears the whole situation during the Salem witch trials grew into larger proportions.  It resulted in the guilty verdict of many innocent people in the play, including the old man.  However, it should also be mentioned that other than Abigail there was evidence in the book that others used the accusations against neighbor’s they did not like or had quarreled with, in order to get rid of them.

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