Who is to blame for the tragic events of The Crucible?

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Most people tend to feel that Abigail Williams is to blame for what happened in The Crucible. She is the master manipulator who fools an entire town into believing that witches are running amok. However, I think two other people share a large portion of the blame: Judge Danforth and Thomas Putnam.

Judge Danforth is the one who actually sentences people upon finding them guilty, and he does so without any real evidence of witchcraft. He bases his rulings almost entirely on Abigail and her friends' accounts, which we know are untrue. His rulings are also very rigid; defendants are either guilty or innocent, and there is no opportunity to appeal or review his decision. He contributes to the hysteria by telling the people that they are either with him or against him. Townspeople realize that they must lie in order to survive and kill others, or tell the truth and die while others live.

Thomas Putnam is also guilty because he's pretty closely aligned with Abigail's tactics. He accuses for his own benefit. Very wealthy and influential, but also extremely greedy, he accuses people of witchcraft via his daughter to get rid of them and buy their land. He starts by accusing easier targets and then works his way up to accusations that would be harder to convince the populace about. He is motivated entirely by greed and power and has no problem lying to advance himself.

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One could argue that Abigail Williams is primarily to blame for the tragic events that transpired during the witch trials in Arthur Miller's The Crucible. In an attempt to avoid punishment for dancing in the forest with the other girls, Abigail Williams uses Tituba as a scapegoat and begins falsely accusing innocent citizens of witchcraft. Abigail Williams not only perpetuates the witchcraft hysteria by pretending to be attacked during the proceedings. She also attempts to get rid of Elizabeth Proctor by accusing her of attempted murder.

In addition to blaming Abigail Williams for the tragic events associated with the witch trials, one could also argue that Reverend Parris, Deputy Governor Danforth, Judge Hathorne, and Reverend Hale are responsible for the numerous deaths of innocent citizens. As Salem's authority figures, they support and trust Abigail Williams and the other girls testifying against innocent citizens. Although Reverend Hale eventually denounces the proceedings, he is too late. Many innocent citizens have already suffered and died. Danforth and Hathorne overlook Abigail's lies and become primarily focused on maintaining their authority, which is why they continue to convict innocent citizens.

John Proctor also bears some responsibility for the witch trials. In act one, Abigail Williams tells him the truth about Betty and Ruth's mysterious illnesses and admits that they were simply dancing in the forest. Instead of intervening and shedding light onto Abigail's sensitive information, John remains silent and does not expose the truth until it is too late. Overall, Abigail Williams, Salem's authority figures, and John Proctor all bear some responsibility for the tragic events that transpired during the Salem witch trials.

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There are several arguments that point to different people.

1. Abigail Williams could be worthy of blame. We see in the first Act that she manipulates the girls into helping her lie about what went on in the forest prior to the start of the play. It is in this same intimidating mood that the girls follow her lead in beginning to call out names of who they "saw" with the Devil in the end of that Act. Her dominance continues as the play unfolds and the girls are required to attend court as if they have a special ability to identify those who are bewitched.

2. The adults who trusted Abigail and the girls could certainly deserve blame. Because they gave the girls this power, they believed the girls actions more and more. In fact, when real evidence was brought to court, the court officials believe the girls' spectral evidence over the hard and tangible evidence along with honest and trustworthy testimony. Danforth and Hathorne would have been dis-barred in today's societies for allowing what happened to happen.

3. Reverend Parris was just trying to protect his reputation. But, his actions set this chain of events in motion. If he could have just accepted what the girls did, Abby might not have gone to all of those lengths to lie about the situation.

4. The Putnams are traditionally considered a party who influenced the girls. Their daughter Ruth was in with the group and reportedly helped influence along with Abby. The Putnams did not get along with many people of the town because their choice for a new minister was not chosen. Additionally, they had land battles with the Nurses and the Proctors. They had motive to see members of those families killed.

The only person who influenced some of the killing who does not share any amount of the blame is John Hale. He worked throughout the entire last Act to free those who were in jail. Now, he didn't try to help them escape, but he certainly tried to convince the court that what they were doing was wrong.

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When asking this question, the first instinct is almost always to place the entirety of the blame on Abigail Williams and her group. However, Miller's play was largely a criticism on McCarthyism, and a political climate wherein a person's life could be completely ruined simply by being accused being affiliated with communism. For such an environment to function and flourish, it requires the ignorant and spiteful actions of many more, as well as the ignorance and apathy of more still.

That being said, Abigail Williams certainly did her part. A string of lies that are motivated by protecting herself as well as winning her place in the heart of John Proctor eventually lead the community to ruin. It is clear that Abigail will do anything and hurt anyone to get what she wants or to keep herself from punishment.

The Putnams are also heavily to blame, as they use the witch trials as a means to increase their estate. While they did not create the hysteria, they made it much worse by exploiting the situation in their own favor.

The officials of Salem, such as Danforth, all convince themselves that they are doing the right thing. However, it is obvious that they are at least subconsciously aware of their own doubt, and are allowing themselves to be steamrolled by the will of their hysterical community.

The Crucible is a lesson in how one person such as Abigail, who is powerless enough on her own, can cause the deaths and ruin of several innocents when there is a faction considered to be as unfavorable as "witches." Between being accused by Abigail and being executed, there are several steps that the accused would have had to go through wherein logic could have easily prevailed. However, everyone is so afraid of being associated with witchcraft that they back down and do nothing to stand against mob mentality.

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It could be said that the acts of Abigail Williams, Tituba, and the girls who conjured spirits in the forest and then tell a succession of lies are the catalyst for the ultimate tragedy of the executions. However, there is plenty of blame to go around in The Crucible.

The Putnams are also culpable. The family prompts Ruth to accuse George Jacobs of witchcraft with the goal of having him forfeit his land, although this also ends Jacobs's life.

The deep insecurity of Parris, Danforth, and Hathorne also contributes to the deaths of innocent citizens of Salem.  Because they do not want to be seen as personally weak or for the theocratic government to be seen as fallible, they entertain the scurrilous allegations brought forward by Abigail and the other girls as well as the Putnams. This leads to the executions of some of Salem's most pious and honorable citizens. 

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The blame for the events of the story has to be assigned to more than a single individual. Abigail Williams and her friends certainly deserve a portion of the blame. Judge Danforth, Reverend Parris and Reverend Hale also share responsibility for the numerous deaths resulting from the witchtrials. 

The trouble in Salem begins when Abigail convinces her friends (and Tituba) to divert attention from their own midnight actions in the woods. To do this, accusations of witchcraft are made against others.

These accusations are fabricated for the most part - simply made up. The responsibility for the lies rests with Abigail and her cohort. However, it is at this point in the story that the responsibility shifts to the adults in the Salem community.

Instead of actually assessing the claims made by frightened girls (who happen to be facing quite a serious punishment for witchcraft of their own), Hale and Parris decide the stories are true. Believing the girls' lies without skepticism is the fault of these adults and community leaders.   

Furthermore, it is the official court that hands down the verdicts and sentences citizens to death. This court, represented in large part by Danforth, is responsible for the tragedy of wrongful death meted out in punishment for crimes that were never committed. 

Seen in this way, we can say that the girls' accusations tip the first proverbial dominoes leading to tragedy, but they are far from alone in the final blame. 

...the community's reaction to these accusations, he shows how easily stories can be taken out of context—and how people are blamed for crimes they haven't committed.

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