How is hysteria in Salem a result of lies in The Crucible?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Miller proves that the hysteria in Salem was the result of dishonest people skilled in manipulation and those who didn't know any better; they profited in different ways from the lies being spread. 

Miller shows that honesty in Salem was in short supply.  The hysteria was the product of individuals who knew how to manipulate public fear.  For example, Reverend Parris knows that a public scare over witches increases his prestige. Hathorne and Danforth recognize that if more people confess to being witches, they experience a rise in judicial power.  Abigail and the girls see that if their social prestige is directly connected to the more people they accuse.  Thomas Putnam is able to generate more property as more people are accused.  He is able to generate a profit because accused individuals are forced to sell off their property to him at reduced prices.  

In each of these cases, specific characters benefit from the hysteria in Salem.  Miller shows how these people were able to manipulate the public's fear to their advantage.  They profited in different ways from the lies being spread and were not opposed to the hysteria in Salem.

Individual ignorance was another explanation as to how lies  perpetuated the panic in Salem.  Townspeople were sincerely convinced that witches existed. Their fear of the supernatural enabled them to embrace hysteria.  It is for this reason that so many of them accused neighbors and friends.  They were unable to discern between fact and fiction, and this ignorance became another reason why the emotional contagion in Salem developed.  Miller shows how malicious intent and ignorance colluded with one another to blanket the town in hysterical fear.

bhicks2220 | Student

In Arthur Miller's The Crucible, the lies told were a direct cause of the tragic mass hysteria.  Though many characters in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible tell lies, Abigail Williams is the greatest liar of all, and deftly misleads the Salem society. Her reasons for her lying escalate throughout the play, and in the end the lies lead to the death of many, as well as her own survival. 

Abigail and John Proctor's lies begin prior to the play's beginning. They are having an affair and lying about this to Elizabeth, John's wife and others.  When the play begins and Abigail is dancing in the woods with the girls, they are caught and lie out of fear.  Once Reverend Parris catches them, they lie about being bewitched.  They know the reverend will believe this and they use his beliefs to their advantage.  These lies begin the downward slide to the mass hysteria that results in the death of so many "witches".  Even when Mary comes forward with the truth, the lies win out.  She isn't believed.  Is this because people truly don't believe her or they are afraid to admit their horrible mist

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The Crucible

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