What are some quotes from The Crucible that demonstrate mob mentality?

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Mob mentality is when a group of people are influenced by each other to adopt a single viewpoint, attitude, or behavior based on shared emotions. When individuals are affected by mob mentality, they tend to make different decisions than they would on their own. Mob mentality is one of the...

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Mob mentality is when a group of people are influenced by each other to adopt a single viewpoint, attitude, or behavior based on shared emotions. When individuals are affected by mob mentality, they tend to make different decisions than they would on their own. Mob mentality is one of the driving forces in Arthur Miller's play The Crucible, which gives the corrupt court authority and is responsible for the arrests and deaths of numerous innocent citizens.

In act 2, Elizabeth describes to her husband how Abigail has become a revered figure throughout Salem: everybody views her as a saint for accusing people of witchcraft. Elizabeth tells John:

The Deputy Governor promise hangin’ if they’ll not confess, John. The town’s gone wild, I think. She [Mary] speak of Abigail, and I thought she were a saint, to hear her. Abigail brings the other girls into the court, and where she walks the crowd will part like the sea for Israel. And folks are brought before them, and if they scream and howl and fall to the floor - the person’s clapped in the jail for bewitchin’ them (Miller 53)

Elizabeth's description of the town going wild and adopting the same views regarding Abigail as a savior and defender against evil forces is an excellent example of mob mentality. Citizens are not thinking rationally or judging Abigail based on their independent opinions; instead, they allow their emotions to control their reasoning.

Another example of mob mentality takes place in act 3. Mary Warren is threatening to undermine the court, and Abigail responds by accusing Mary of sending her spirit to attack the court officials. Abigail says:

Oh, Mary, this is a black art to change your shape. No, I cannot, I cannot stop my mouth; it’s God’s work I do (Miller 115)

The girls proceed to follow Abigail's lead and also act like they see Mary's threatening spirit. The girls then begin to repeat everything Mary says, which frightens her and influences Mary to retract her statements. Mary's behavior as well as the girls' choice to follow Abigail's lead are other examples of mob mentality. When emotions run high, all of the girls begin thinking and acting alike. They all adopt the same views towards Proctor and accuse him of colluding with the devil.

Deputy Governor Danforth's comments and beliefs in act 4 provide more illustrations of mob mentality. Danforth refuses to postpone the hangings in order to appear resolute and just. Danforth is not thinking independently and shares the hysterical citizens' views. Danforth says:

Now hear me, and beguile yourselves no more. I will not receive a single plea for pardon or postponement. Them that will not confess will hang. Twelve are already executed; the names of these seven are given out, and the village expects to see them die this morning. Postponement now speaks a floundering on my part; reprieve or pardon must cast doubt upon the guilt of them that died till now...I should hang ten thousand that dared to rise against the law, and an ocean of salt tears could not melt the resolution of the statutes (Miller 129)

Danforth's comments indicate mob mentality as he attempts to please the community and conform to the majority. Rather than trusting his own intuition or making an independent judgment, Danforth sides with the majority and refuses to postpone the hangings.

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While you'll want to research the play further to gain a complete understanding of how "mob mentality" is used in Arthur Miller's The Crucible, there are a few sections of the play that stick out. Take special note of Abigail as she incites the mob to act rashly and illogically on numerous occasions throughout the play.

After being caught dancing with a group of girls in Act I, Betty falls into a coma-like state. The villagers gather, and once she wakes up, they begin claiming witchcraft:

ANN: (Entering) The psalm! The psalm! - she cannot hear the Lord's name!
PARRIS: No, God forbid...
ANN: Mark it for a sign, mark it...! (Rebecca Nurse enters.)
PUTNAM: That is a notorious sign of witchcraft afoot, a prodigious sign.
ANN: My mother told me that! That they cannot bear to hear the name of...
PARRIS: Rebecca, Rebecca, come to her...we're lost, she suddenly cannot bear to hear the Lord's name.
ANN: What have you done?

This is the first example of mob mentality in the play. As soon as Ann suggests that Betty's freak-out is a result of the psalm, the rest jump in and decide it must be witchcraft.

A short time later, Abigail becomes hysterical and blames everything—the dancing, Betty's condition, her laughter in church, etc.—on Tituba. The "mob," consisting of Hale, Parris, Putnam, and others, decides that Tituba has been consorting with the Devil.

ABIGAIL: I always hear her laughing in my sleep. I hear her singing her Barbados songs and tempting me with-
TITUBA: Mister Reverend, I never-
HALE: When did you compact with the Devil?
TITUBA: I don't compact with no devil!
PARRIS: You will confess yourself or I will take you out and whip you to your death, Tituba!
PUTNAM: This woman must be hanged! She must be taken and hanged!

The dramatic element of the scene aside, this passage is almost comedic. Abigail, who has been caught dancing at night—something that is clearly against the rules in their society—passes blame onto Tituba. Instead of looking at this rationally, the mob decides that as punishment for allegedly tormenting Abigail, Tituba must die. Again, Abigail is the mastermind behind this mob mentality.

One final example comes later in the play when Mary is testifying to the court. She confesses that the girls were all just pretending that they were bewitched when Abigail turns it back on Mary, again provoking the mob mentality of the crowd:

ABIGAIL: (Backing away to bench and sits. Clasping her arms about her as though cold.) I...I know not. A wind, a cold wind has come. (Her eyes fall on Mary.)
MARY: (Terrified, pleading.) Abby!
MERCY: Your Honor, I freeze!
PROCTOR: They're pretending!
HATHORNE: (Touching Abigail's hand.) She is cold, your Honor, touch her!
MERCY: (Rises. A threat.) Mary, do you send this shadow on me? (Sits slowly.)
MARY: Lord save me! (Susanna rises looking at Mary, then slowly sits.)
ABIGAIL: (She is shivering visibly.) I freeze-I freeze. (Mercy hugs her as they shiver.)
MARY: (With great fear.) Abby, don't do that! (Proctor crosses to her, grabs her.)
DANFORTH: Mary warren, do you witch her? I say to you, do you send your spirit out!

Yet again, Abigail inflames the crowd's fear of witchcraft; however, on this occasion, she also provokes Mary's fear of being accused of witchcraft. The other girls follow her lead, and after a lengthy confession from Proctor about his affair with Abigail, Mary finally gives in and accuses him of consorting with the devil.

There are other examples of mob mentality throughout the play, but these three should get you started. It is a common thread throughout, especially when Abigail is involved. Pay close attention to how she is able to rally the mob however she sees fit through her actions and accusations.

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