In The Crucible, who is the most to blame for the events in Salem and why?

In The Crucible, one could argue that Abigail Williams is most to blame for the events that transpired in Salem, because she was the first person to manipulate Salem's officials, falsely accuse innocent citizens, and propagate witchcraft hysteria throughout the community. Abigail also threatened the other girls to corroborate her story, accused Elizabeth Proctor of attempted murder, and pretended to be attacked by spirits. Reverend Parris also shares the blame for supporting his niece and aligning himself with Salem's court.

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The argument can be made that the girls are most to blame for the Salem witch trials in The Crucible. Before the start of the play, Abigail Williams, Betty, Mercy Lewis, Mary Warren, Ruth Putnam, and several other girls consulted with Tituba and danced naked in the forest. In Salem's austere Puritan society, dancing in the forest and communicating with spirits are forbidden activities. Reverend Parris startled the girls while they were dancing, causing Betty and Ruth to feign illness, which puzzles the local doctor. The girls' decision to participate in taboo, forbidden activities is the catalyst for the witchcraft hysteria.

The girls also agree to follow Abigail's lead and testify against innocent citizens during the witch trials. They pretend invisible spirits are attacking them, continually faint on the stand, and accuse their neighbors of witchcraft. Ruth Putnam also does her father's bidding by accusing George Jacobs of witchcraft. The girls enjoy their elevated status throughout the town and continue to spread witchcraft hysteria.

Another person responsible for the witch trials is John Proctor. In the first act of the play, Abigail Williams tells him in private that they were only dancing and "took fright" when Parris surprised them. Even though Proctor knows the girls are frauds, he does not take action and intervene before the witch trials begin.

Proctor waits too long to disclose the truth, and the proceedings are underway by the time he presents his deposition. Elizabeth Proctor even criticizes him in act 2 for not telling the truth and exposing Abigail as a liar. Proctor had the opportunity to end the trials before they began, which is why it can be argued that he is most to blame.

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There are several notable characters who are primarily responsible for the events that transpired in Salem, beginning with Abigail Williams. Abigail Williams is the first character who recognizes that she can manipulate Salem's authority figures to her advantage, and she immediately uses Tituba as a scapegoat when Reverend Hale begins his investigation. Abigail Williams is also the first character to accuse innocent civilians of witchcraft, which significantly contributes to the destructive hysteria throughout town. In addition to accusing innocent citizens, Abigail Williams also threatens to kill the other girls if they do not corroborate her story or follow her lead.

As the play progresses, Abigail Williams continues to manipulate Salem's officials and threaten the lives of innocent citizens by falsely accusing Elizabeth Proctor of attempted murder. When John Proctor reveals the truth and admits to lechery, Abigail responds by pretending to see Mary Warren's spirit in the rafters, which shifts the momentum back in her favor. Following John's arrest, Abigail skips town with Mercy Lewis to avoid the consequences of her actions. The tragic events in Salem would have never happened if Abigail did not falsely accuse innocent civilians and had accepted responsibility for her actions.

One could also place the majority of the blame on Reverend Parris for succumbing to peer pressure from Thomas Putnam, inviting Reverend Hale to investigate witchcraft, and supporting Abigail and Salem's corrupt court. Reverend Parris fears that he will lose his position of authority and aligns himself with the selfish court officials. Parris also tries to undermine John Proctor's logical arguments, refuses to acknowledge that Abigail is lying, and supports the court's decision to arrest innocent civilians. Reverend Parris was in a position of authority to stop the witch trials before they began but decided to align himself with Salem's fraudulent court and assist his deceitful niece.

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One could argue that it is the girls who are most to blame for these events.  It was their questionable activities in the woods that prompted Betty Parris and Ruth Putnam to become ill and spark the investigation into witchcraft.  Further, it was Abigail to accused Tituba -- a slave who seems only to have confessed in order to avoid beatings or death -- and then Abigail and Betty who piled accusation upon accusation in the final moments of Act One.  Finally, it was the girls who knowingly accused innocent people in the court.

One could also argue that it is Mrs. Putnam who is most to blame because she sent her daughter, Ruth, to Tituba to conjure the spirits of Mrs. Putnam's dead children in order to find out how and why they died.  Her action then led to the events above.

One might also argue that it is the adults who believe, or purport to believe, these children: adults including Reverend Parris (who purposely hides the truth about what he knows from the court in order to maintain his reputation and position), Mr. Hale (who recognizes early on that the court was erring and condemning people to die based on little else besides the testimony of children, but says too little too late), Judge Hathorne (who seems more interested in using the trials as a way to increase his own power in the community and colony), and Deputy Governor Danforth (who adopts the position that these girls are speaking for God and who refuses to delay executions even when there is compelling evidence that the girls were dishonest because it would undermine his own authority).  One could even suggest that John Proctor is to blame because Abigail tells him much of the truth about the forest early on, and he says nothing until it is too late.

There are a great many people to blame for these trials, and it seems to me that they could not have occurred without all, or at least most, of these people acting as they did.  The girls lied, yes, but it was up to the adults to decide how to respond, and they responded wrongly.  Some were too willing to believe in the lies -- like Mrs. Putnam -- and others seemed to have something to gain in their perpetuation -- like Mr. Putnam, Parris, Danforth, and Hathorne.  All are responsible.

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