The Crucible Essay Example 2
In, "The Crucible", by Arthur Miller, a common theme of lying for one's own benefit appears by using witchcraft to feed the characters own selfish, greedy desires. Abigail, a young girl in the town of Salem, lies to have the wife of a man she is in love with killed. Thomas Putnam, a wealthy landowner, uses the misinterpretation of witchcraft to prosecute those who live on land he wants. Characters continue to lie, continuing the chain of events of blaming one another. This imitates today's society, in which mass media or certain individuals lie for viewership, money, or maybe even fame.
Fake news in media allows for misinformation to spread like wildfire. To a lesser extent than death like in the story, consequences such as threatening somebody's public image and appearance is still a serious problem in the digital age, and in turn leads back to more viewership for the media station. By creating a lie, the media can manipulate the viewer into using that resource more often. This overreaction through the age of media is seen again with the prosecution of Muslim and Sikh people after 9/11; causing an increase in hate crimes and attacks against those who practice their religion. Even more prominently, hysteria in media and panic over mass shootings leads to a domino effect of copycat attacks.
Just like in the story, where characters use hysteria to blame others and appease themselves, today's society blames only what causes the largest reaction. In the story where people fall to deceit and allow the cycle continue, today's society falls under the spell of social and digital media, leading to more shootings, attacks and falsifications. Miller's theme of lying to satisfy one's own desire, questioning, or to create hysteria, leads to more recent parallels between fake news in media today and the panic it may cause.
Theme of Deception
The theme of deception is first observed in, "The Crucible", when Abigail (a pathological liar) accuses Elizabeth Proctor, the wife of John Proctor whom she had an affair with, of witchcraft. Elizabeth says, "Spoke or silent, a promise is surely made. And she may dote on it now - I am sure she does - and thinks to kill me, then to take my place." (61) In Salem, an accusation of witchcraft is not investigated or questioned. The accused party is immediately sentenced and, should they not confess to the lie, are put to death. Abigail uses this to her advantage by accusing Elizabeth, who is known for only being honest, and subsequently having her killed; allowing her to have John. Abigail, to the reader, is very clearly lying about the entire situation. However, to the people of Salem, she is a credible source and her word will be taken truthfully.
A connection to Abigail and the way many view media can be taken from this. Although Abigail is one source, with minimal proof, she is taken seriously. Today, social media has the same effect, regardless of where the accusation or source is coming from. In 2013, a fake tweet from a celebrity known as "Kanye West" circulated, comparing himself to a better version of the political leader Nelson Mandela. The fake tweet reads as follows, "Mandela was working in South Africa, which has, like what, six people? I started my magic here in the USA and then I took my business global [...] I liberate minds with my music. That's more important than liberating a few people from apartheid or whatever." (Business Insider) People took this single, satirical comedy source and quickly viewed it as authentic, leaving a negative impact and public opinion on Kanye - much like how the people of Salem will prosecute Elizabeth. Although there is no truth to the statement, hysteria can cause an incredibly atrocious view towards the victim, even leading to terrible consequences as seen in the story.
Another parallel between the trials in the story and present day denunciations is revealed through Thomas Putnam's accusations. Thomas Putnam, one of the wealthiest men in Salem, uses fear to oppress less affluent landowners and steal their property. One of his victims is Martha Corey, the wife of Giles Corey. While pleading to save his wife from a guilty verdict, Giles says, "If Jacob hangs for a witch he forfeit up his property - that's law! And there is none but Putnam with the coin to buy so great a piece. This man is killing his neighbors for their land!" (96) In this quote, Giles exposes Putnam's plan to have his neighbors killed and later buy their property. Although Martha and Giles have done nothing wrong, and although Giles is telling the truth, hysteria has allowed for the oppression of the characters. It is implied that Martha will still be found guilty, as she refuses to "admit" to witchcraft, regardless if Giles is being honest or not.
This is almost identical to today's society, in which Muslim and Sikh people are ridiculed and accused of terrorism due to the events following 9/11. A Sikh group fighting against this ridicule writes, "During 2012 and 2013, we surveyed over 500 Sikh students, conducted focus groups with over 700 students, and interviewed 50 Sikh students in four states: Massachusetts, Indiana, Washington, and California. We found that the majority of Sikh children, just over 50%, endure school bullying. And the numbers are worse for turbaned Sikh children. Over two-thirds, or 67%, reported that they are bullied in school. [...] The period since 9/11 has been particularly difficult for Sikh Americans and their children.
While Sikh children experience bullying in the classrooms, their Sikh American parents endure astoundingly high rates of hate crimes, employment discrimination, and scrutiny at the nation’s airports." (Sikh Coalition) Mirroring the events in the story, Sikh people are constantly mocked and demonized because they are accused of something that they had no part in. These accusations continue to play into the fear of terrorism, due to the actions of one small group of people over 15 years ago. Hysteria is a constant cycle between fear, finding who is accused of causing it and then attacking the person(s) accused. While in the story witchcraft is used to accuse, 9/11 is the modern day witchcraft to Sikhs. Both Martha, and other townspeople under Putnam's oppression, and those today who are demonized because of how they look or what religion they practice, are scapegoats of this fear as a consequence of hysteria.
Both of these dilemmas continue due to a domino effect that is also seen in the story. In the story, fear causes a constant cycle of blaming others to occur. On multiple occasions, when a character is blamed, they will denounce another - whether that is out of spite, fear or jealousy.While being questioned for being a witch, Parris's slave Tituba says, "No, no don't hang Tituba! I tell him I don't desire to work for him, sir. [...] Mister Reverend, I do believe somebody else be witchin' these children." (44-45). Tituba knows her fate was death had she not confessed. However, she also sees how fear can be used to her advantage by blaming others and saving herself. By accusing other women in the village, Tituba contributes to the domino effect of blaming others. Unfortunately, this is something observed in today's society - this time with terrorist attacks committed against our country. As seen previously, media can be sourced as the blame for our modern day domino effect of shootings, "worldwide disaster deaths provide an exogenous variation that systematically crowds out shooting-related coverage.
Our findings consistently suggest a positive and statistically significant effect of coverage on the number of subsequent shootings, lasting for 4-10 days. At its mean, news coverage is suggested to cause approximately three mass shootings in the following week, which would explain 58 percent of all mass shootings in our sample." (Institute of Labor Economics) Today, media use mass shootings as a tool for more viewership. They air the attack for hours, conduct interviews and attempt to dramatize the entire situation so as to create the most shock and most "entertaining" show, creating more viewership and more income. Shooters, who may be thinking about conducting an attack, see this fear caused and build off of it. They see the political outcry and the hate it spreads, and decide to use that. Media causes this; media is the accusation that we see in the story. They are built off fear and only lead to more allegations and attacks. Without fear there would be less motive, and less motive would end the domino effect.
Through each act in the story a modernistic comparison is revealed. Where there is fabrication in the story we see the same fabrication on today's society and its people. Where there is oppression in the book, there is oppression on those today who are victims of the same fate. Finally, where there is fear in, "The Crucible", there is fear perpetrated by those only seeking their own satisfaction and contorted desires. Throughout the book, and the events in today's world, Arthur Miller allows us to see that the devil we battle may not be supernatural, but a man made phenomenon in which we only allow to continue.
Title: What is Mass Hysteria?, Author: Maria Cohut, Date Published: July 27, 2018, Publisher: Medical News Today
Title: The Effect of Media Coverage on Mass Shooting, Author: Michael Jetter & Jay K. Walker, Date Published: October 1, 2018, Publisher: Institute of Labor Economics
Title: The Crucible, Author: Arthur Miller, Date Published: January 22, 1953, Publisher: Viking Press
Title: Go Home Terrorist - A Report on Bullying Against Sikh American School Children, Author: Sikh Coalition writers, Date Accessed: August 13, 2019, Publisher: The Sikh Coalition
Title: Can Social Media Spread Epidemics?, Author: Romeo Vitelli, Date Published: September 23, 2013, Publisher: Psychology Today
Title: Kanye West Responds to Fake Interview That Quoted Him As Saying 'I Am The Next Nelson Mandela, Author: Aly Weisman, Date Published: December 9, 2013, Publisher: Business Insider