In The Crucible, discuss the differences between truth and lies in Act 2 and Act 1.

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would say that there are two answers I see here.  The first would be that the lies that are spoken in Act I reside in the domain of the public and of the need to maintain social control.  Abigail Williams' lies and deceit is done to maintain her sense of control over the group and to ensure that what she covets or desires is what will be gained.  In this setting, the lies that are spoken are done so for personal gain via the realm of the public.  In Act II, the focus is the realm of the internal.  The effect of deception is seen in the private relationship between John and Elizabeth.  In this, one sees that the launching of lies in the public can carry tremendous impact in the realm of the private, as the adultery between Abigail and John has provided significant strain on the marriage between he and Elizabeth.  In the contrast of both scenes, the difference between deliberate and intentional cruelty through deception and the impact of unintentional and poor decision making can be seen.  In this light, the presence of emotional connection is what allows deception to be navigated through and seen as something that can provide the space for redemption.  The lack of an emotional affect or sentimental element is present in the First Act, making Abigail's lies all more potent and brutal.  In this difference, Miller might be asserting that the presence of a true emotional framework is what will allow the venom of lies and deception to be endured and sustained, contributing to its minimizing.

dtarver1003 | Student

In The Crucible, neighbors suddenly turn on each other and accuse people they’ve known for years of practicing witchcraft and devil-worship. The town of Salem falls into mass hysteria, a condition in which community-wide fear overwhelms logic and individual thought and ends up justifying its own existence. Fear feeds fear: in order to explain to itself why so many people are afraid, the community begins to believe that the fear must have legitimate origins. In The Crucible, hysterical fear becomes an unconscious means of expressing the resentment and anger suppressed by strict Puritan society. Some citizens of Salem use the charge of witchcraft willfully and for personal gain, but most are genuinely overcome by the town’s collective hysteria: they believe the devil is attacking Salem. And if the devil is attacking your town, then ensuring that your neighbor is punished for selling you a sick pig suddenly becomes a religious necessity, a righteous act that protects the God you love and proves that you’re not a witch or a devil-worshipper. The Crucible shows how religious fervor fuels hysteria and leads to conditions that sacrifice justice and reason.

Reputation is the way that other people perceive you. Integrity is the way you perceive yourself. Several characters in The Crucible face a tough decision: to protect their reputation or their integrity. Parris, Abigail, and others to protect their reputations. Rebecca Nurse and, eventually, John Proctor, choose to protect their integrity. In rigid communities like Salem, a bad reputation can result in social or even physical punishment. The Crucible argues that those most concerned with reputation, like Parris, are dangerous to society: to protect themselves, they’re willing to let others be harmed and fuel hysteria in the process. In contrast,

The Crucible shows that those who favor integrity by admitting mistakes and refusing to lie just to save their own lives help defy hysteria. Willing to die for what they believe in, they put a stop to the baseless fear that feeds hysteria.

jfk4got2duck | Student

The conflict between the lies and the truth is the whole base of the story. It would have been very different if everyone had been telling the truth during the two scenes, because they would have gone so much smoother. The plot that takes place in the story wouldn’t exist had everyone been telling the truth.