In The Crucible, what view regarding the true nature of evil is conveyed through the behavior of the characters in the closing of Act One?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

By the end of Act One, Abigail has accused Tituba of witchcraft in order to save herself.  Tituba, then, confesses and accuses Sarah Good and Goody Osburn of witchcraft in order to avoid punishment (Parris threatened to beat her and Putnam wanted to hang her) and deflect attention from herself.  Finally, when Abigail sees the way Hale treats Tituba, kindly telling her that God has given her a special purpose in Salem, she seems to want to be told that she, too, has a special purpose.  She confesses her relationship with the Devil and cries out that she "want[s] the light of God, [...] the sweet love of Jesus!"  To Tituba's two accusations, she adds the name of Bridget Bishop.  

Then, Betty rises from her bed "a fever in her eyes," and accuses two more.  Parris embraces her, and she calls out again, "hysterically and with great relief," accusing another.  She and Abigail go back and forth, accusing several more people before the end of the act.  The "fever" in Betty's eyes and her evident "relief" at making false accusations is notable.  Through this scene and these descriptions, Miller seems to convey the idea that we require no external forces of evil to afflict us because the evil that can consume us is actually inside us already.  The girls are able to point fingers so easily, and their cries are "ecstatic," indicating that they seem almost intoxicated with their power.  The evil within them has taken over, and this idea -- that true evil is within us, not without -- makes possible all of the action that follows.

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The Crucible

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