How can conflict feed fear?
There are many conflicts in The Crucible that contribute to the fear that surrounds the witchcraft hysteria that occurred in Salem in 1692.
The general fear in Salem that witchcraft has seeped into the community starts a mass hysteria that creates conflict between those who accuse and those who are accused. There are at first, only undesirables accused, fringe people, not proper citizens, but then as the madness increases and people in the town begin to use the witchcraft hysteria to exercise their own personal vendettas, the most respected citizens are accused and executed.
There are both internal and external conflicts swirling around in the play for many characters. For example, at the heart of the witchcraft hysteria is Abigail Williams whose conflict concerns John Proctor. She wants to get rid of Elizabeth Proctor so that she can have a relationship with John, a man she has had an adulterous affair with, and still loves.
Elizabeth expresses a level of fear of Abigail, especially when the witchcraft trials begin, because she knows that the jealous girl wants her dead. Proctor is fearful that his internal conflict, his struggle with his own desires and feelings will lead him to stray from his wife again. He is further challenged when he is arrested for witchcraft and filled with dread regarding his past sins, fearful of death, but ultimately unwilling to confess to the crime of witchcraft.
The conflict that exists between Ann Putnam and Rebecca Nurse drives Mrs. Putnam to accuse Mrs. Nurse of killing her seven babies at birth through the use of witchcraft. There conflict really stems from Mrs. Putnam's fear and jealousy at now having more live children, she only has Ruth. While Mrs. Putnam has many children and grandchildren. Through her fear and because of the conflict between them, Mrs. Putnam is able to accuse Mrs. Nurse and she is subsequently executed for witchcraft. Rebecca Nurse has a reputation that is well known even outside Salem. She is a devout Puritan Christian woman, revered for her faith. So, clearly the conflict was manipulated through the use of fear and an innocent woman was put to death.
In the case of “The Crucible” conflict feeds fear because people become very afraid that any type of conflict that they might have or might have had with those who are accusing others of witchcraft could cause the accusers to point the finger at him or her. There are many conflicts that encircle the characters of the novel and those conflicts are what lead to many of the accusations. For example, Abigail and Elizabeth have a conflict so Abigail accuses Elizabeth of witchcraft; John has a conflict with all of the girls at the end of Act 3 so they all accuse him of witchcraft. For this reason, the people of the village who have conflicts with others become scared and are, of course, going to side with the accusers and this is how the mass hysteria of the play comes about.