The Role of Fear in the Crucible, a Play by Arthur Miller
In “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller, fear was portrayed as an essential role in degrading the integrity of humans, through the different aspects of social, political, and religious perspectives. In the theocratic society of “The Crucible,” fear engendered the first accusation made by Tituba, which served to imply the first hint at moral unrighteousness. The lies that sprung out of fear also played as the invisible hand that forced upon the promotion of corruption in the government of Salem. Besides uncovering only similar facets of fear in social and political perspectives, religious fear revealed a different aspect of human nature, through their desperacy to be “good”. Following the eyes of these three prospects, the author shows how easily humans submit to one of their most innate emotions, fear, and subsequently, to their fate.
From the social perspective, the girls took fear as an excuse for murder and vengeance, yielding to their fears and to their fate. Tituba’s accusation eventually resulted in the deaths of all the people, who were accused and did not confess, in Salem. The fear in her heart for really having been involved with witchcraft and the fear of losing her “name” to the people of Salem, led to the downfalling integrity of her, who, “frightened by the coming process….I do believe somebody else be witchin’ these children” (Miller 45). This fear, as Miller had described, was simply another form of siding with the Devil: “I hear the boot of Lucifer, I see his filthy face! And it is my face, and yours, Danforth! For them that quail to bring men out of ignorance, as I have quailed, and as you quail now when you know in all your black hearts that this be fraud…” (Miller 120).
The metaphor used to compare the Devil to people, as righteous as Proctor and Danforth were, emphasized the dangerous truth of the society’s immorality, that humans, subject to fear, succumb without retaliation when faced with a threat such as being accused, to the Devil. In addition, the lies told by the girls were also incentives that compelled the corruption and decay of justice. Danforth, a symbol of justice in the story, also symbolized corruption. He claimed, “…witchcraft is…an invisible crime… Therefore, who may possibly be witness to it?
The witch and the victim…Now we cannot hope the witch will accuse herself… Therefore, we must rely upon her victims…” (Miller 100). The repetitive words of “Therefore… Therefore” highlighted that the point was reasonably argued. However, this justified statement proves its wrong when asked with these questions: “Is the accuser always holy now? Were they born this morning as clean as God’s finger” (Miller 77)? Speaking of God’s finger, an allusion to the Ten Commandments, the quote compared accusers to be as “clean” as to follow all the commandments. However, they did not, or at least Abigail did not.
The children lied when fear prompted them to, because they feared their lies would be discovered. Danforth, believing in such nonsense of the children, led to the corruption of the Salem government: “…a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there be no road between…we live no longer in the dusky afternoon when evil mixed itself with good and befuddled the world” (Miller 94). The diction by which the author uses, reveals that the corruption of justice was developed through rapid progression, and thus reflects the gradual faltering desire of the people to live faithfully, both to themselves and to God. In respect to the fear seen from social and political perspectives, through Proctor’s eventual refusal to confess, fear seen from the religious value of the Puritan society uncovered a different side of humanity.
In “The Crucible,” Proctor was depicted as an irresponsible man. He had an affair with Abigail, yet did not bother to give her a name; his silence towards the girls’ accusations led to the numerous deaths of the people, yet did not speak out until the last minute. He held his pride, but he did not live proudly. Proctor’s fear of betraying his loyalty to God, however, brought about his human side: “He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him” (Miller 145)! Tracing back to the origin of the Salem witch trials, it was caused by the vengeance running in Salem, but now, Proctor creates an image of the good side of humanity. Proctor’s fear of shaming his name also produced the same effect: “Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies!
Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name” (Miller 143)! The intensity in Proctor’s tone creates a sense of desperation. He was dire to cling onto his life with an untainted name. Through Proctor’s character, readers realize that even amongst a corrupted society, man can lead a noble life, but at the same time, give in to fate. Through the use of fear as an integrating component in the story, to encompass the three perspectives, readers realize human fragility. “The Crucible” described the evilness emerging out of a supposedly pure society. Facing the Devil, humans see themselves begging on their knees. Yet, we still hold on to every hope to save ourselves. Even if we fear to lose ourselves in the process, we know we have battled with our lives, as Proctor had done before the eyes of the Devil. Nobody would ever want to give in to their fate. But fate, as figurative as it may seem, has been decided once we are born.