In The Crucible, which character represents hysteria the most and how?

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lusie0520 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Crucible, the character that best represents hysteria is Mrs. Putnam.  Mrs. Putnam has lost seven babies, and she does not understand why.  She is the reason Ruth is in the woods in the first place.  She sends Ruth there to conjure up the spirits of her dead babies.  “And so I thought to send her to your Tituba—Tituba knows how to speak to the dead, Mister Parris.”  When Ruth won’t speak, she instantly jumps to the conclusion that the devil is in Salem.  “For how else is she stuck dumb now except some power of darkness would stop her mouth! It is a marvelous sign, Mister Parris!”

When Reverend Hale arrives, it comes out in the conversation that Goody Putman sent Ruth into the forest to conjure the spirits of the babies.  When Rebecca expresses her surprise, Mrs. Putnam says, “Let God blame me, not you, not you, Rebecca! I‘ll not have you judging me any more! Mr. Hale, is it a natural work to lose seven children before they live a day?”  Ann Putnam wants to believe there are witches in the town; in fact, she wants to believe anything that will explain why her babies keep dying.

When Abigail is questioned, she accuses Tituba of making her drink blood, and Mrs. Putnam says, “Blood?  My babies’ blood?” Later, when Tituba is questioned and she implicates Sarah Osburn, Ann Putnam cries out, “I knew it! Goody Osburn were midwife to me three times. I begged you, Thomas, did I not? I begged him not to call Osburn because I feared her, my babies always shriveled in her hands…” Ann Putnam is a very good example of hysteria in the play.  She has her own agenda, and she wants very much to believe that the reason she has lost so many babies is because of some dark, demonic force.