Can you help me write a thesis statement? In The Crucible, explain the point the playwright, Arthur Miller, is making about the impact of intolerance by those who are in positions of authority in...

Can you help me write a thesis statement?

In The Crucible, explain the point the playwright, Arthur Miller, is making about the impact of intolerance by those who are in positions of authority in a society and how such intolerant actions destroy innocent lives. 

Expert Answers
amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Your thesis is about the how an intolerant authority can destroy the lives of the people it is supposed to guide or protect. We know how they destroy people's lives in this play. There are accusations of witchcraft. The authorities condemn the accused almost immediately. Word spreads of the accusations and this hysteria conditions more accusations. This spreads like a virus. But, of course, accusing people of crimes, based on speculation and fear, is not viral in the biological sense. It is viral in the sense that a meme or a music video has gone "viral." Just as millions of people can be influenced and even brainwashed by a trivial viral video, they can also be influenced by a belief system put forth by an authority. 

Consider this in terms of your thesis on intolerance. The idea of being intolerant of people simply accused (not judged or convicted) of witchcraft has gone viral in Salem. We know the "how" of this epidemic. But what is the "why?" Why does the fear spread so quickly and why do the people fall for it? In other words, why are they so quick to be as intolerant as those authorities? The answer is the strict religious governance of Salem. Miller writes of this in the prologue: 

. . . the people of Salem developed a theocracy, a combine of state and religious power whose function was to keep the community together, and to prevent any kind of disunity that might open it to destruction by material or ideological enemies. It was forged for a necessary purpose and accomplished that pur-pose. But all organization is and must be grounded on the idea of exclusion and prohibition, just as two objects cannot occupy the same space. 

Salem's strict religious authority was instilled to keep the community united. But as part of that plan, anyone who disobeys their strict policies will be excluded, not tolerated, and/or put in jail or to death. The authorities are so narrow-minded in the application of their religious ideology that they deny the accused any real chance of clearing their names in court. And this intolerance is based upon fear. Their fear is that anyone (Abigail, Mary Warren, etc.) acting beyond the bounds of their religious doctrine threatens the unity of their community and their way of life. That intolerance spreads like a virus because others in the community have been taught this same intolerance. When the authorities introduce even more fear of keeping them in line ("you may be accused next"), the people become even more intolerant, even if to accuse others in order to save themselves. 

Why does the intolerance spread so quickly? Because Salem had developed into a society governed by strict religious beliefs which oppressed anyone who dared think like an individual. Subsequently, most of these people were induced by fear to think and behave in certain ways. You might focus on someone like Hale who comes to Salem believing the witchcraft hype, but then is able to overcome his intolerance. He doesn't buy into the fear-mongering anymore. By the end of the play, he realizes the authorities have it wrong, and he's ashamed in having taken part in it: 

Why, it is all simple. I come to do the Devil’s work. I come to counsel Christians they should belie themselves. His sarcasm collapses. There is blood on my head! Can you not see the blood on my head!! (Act 4) 

If you want an historical or allegorical connection, consider the witch-hunt for communists in America in the 1950s. This play was written in 1953 and Miller was absolutely connecting this even to the Salem witch trials. In both cases, you have an intolerant person or persons in power and lives are ruined. And in both cases, unity of the community/country was used as an excuse to exclude others.  

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The Crucible

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