Fear plays a major role in The Crucible and is the main reason why the village of Salem dealt with the witchcraft incidents so badly. Throughout the trials of the people living in Salem, no evidence was found to convict anyone of witchcraft. Instead, the word of a group of young girls was taken as the truth because nobody dared question people who had seen and encountered the devil so the idea that the girls were lying was not one that could be easily substantiated. This is because before the events of Salem it was rare for people to lie about issues of such magnitude because they were so scared of the possible repercussions.
This sample is free and public. This meant that when Abigail Williams began the charade and started to lie for the first time that somebody was no longer afraid of the repercussions and considered themselves to be above one of the most fierce rules around. This is the focal point of The Crucible and it is from Abigail Williams's” inability to tell the truth or respect authority that the fear of others develops. An example of this is the fear of John Proctor who is forced to be forever under the judgment and apprehension that Abigail will tarnish his good name because of his affair with her.
This means that Abigail could ruin the life of a normally good man because of a single indiscretion that he made and that his wife was fully aware of. It is unlike John Proctor to be afraid of anyone in this way because he is usually physically and mentally a pillar of strength and an esteemed member of the community. This makes his fear more powerful as it is so out of character. The reason why he is so afraid of Abigail ruining his name is that he has an immense pride concerning his heritage and is generally a very proud man. If the rest of Salem were to find out about his lechery then he would go down in their estimations.
In the commentary of John Proctor, he is described as “even-tempered” and a man who is “not easily led”. The own high morals of the man are also written in the commentary when is it described how despite his apparent untroubled nature that is far from being the truth. It is also written that he is a sinner “against his vision of decent conduct” showing that he is also very aware of the sin he has committed and that it is something that he cannot easily forget. John Proctor is also one of the only characters in the play who has any reason to be afraid because of the facts against him.
Other people who are afraid only feel that way because they are wary of being made a part of the mass hysteria going on in Salem. Abigail shows that she is not afraid of anything in her conquest to bring unhappiness to anyone that she has ever taken a dislike to. She also emotionally blackmails John Proctor by making it very obvious that the whole, “naming of names” scandal was fictitious and that he cannot do anything about that fact because the moment he does she will make the affair between the two of them common knowledge.
This shows that the motivating force behind the allegations and actions of Abigail Williams is not fear, as she seems to be beyond that. The primary motivating force behind the actions of Abigail was instead those of bitterness and jealousy. Her jealousy stems from John Proctor and the continued rejection she faces from him after the affair. This is apparent in Act 1 when Abigail keeps trying to rekindle the relationship between herself and Proctor but he still refutes her claims that the two are in love. Her ill-feeling towards Elizabeth is obvious when she says to Proctor, ” She (Elizabeth) is a cold, sniveling woman”.
This shows that she is jealous of Elizabeth because she is with Proctor and that is where Abigail wants to be. It is at this point in the play that it seems that Abigail Williams wants to have revenge on anyone who crosses her. In the play whenever a character wants to exact revenge on someone they do so by projecting their guilt and grievances onto the innocent and Abigail Williams is a classic example of this. She feels that Elizabeth standing by her husband despite his sins is a direct insult to her because she thinks that if Elizabeth were forced out of her way then she and Proctor would be re-united. An example of this is when John Proctor tells her that he will, “cut off his hand before I reach for her again” and it is these comments by Proctor that give Abigail the incentive to cause people pain. It is for these reasons that the primary motivating force behind the actions of Abigail Williams is not fear but jealousy and hatred towards others. However, if Abigail Williams could be accused of being afraid of one thing and that would be the fear of punishment. If Abigail were ever found out to be lying she would face certain hanging and therefore must fear death.
An example is when her uncle asks her is she was conjuring spirits the night before and she says, ” Not I, sir-Tituba and Ruth”, this is Abigail once again passing the blame to somebody else whether they be innocent or not, to avoid punishment or responsibility. One character in The Crucible who always seems to be afraid and whom fear and paranoia drive his every action is Revd. Parris. His fear is not the same as the fear of John Proctor who, despite worrying about his pride being bruised also fears for the safety of his family but is instead totally selfish.
This is because Parris is constant vigilant as what he most fears is being usurped as the most powerful man in Salem. This is evident when he first finds out about the incident of the girls dancing in the woods. He tells Abigail, “I have fought three long years to bend these stiff-necked people towards me”, this shows that when Parris first arrived in the village of Salem that he was not able to command instant respect. Living in a theocracy this seems to indicate that he possesses a very unreasonable temperament.
At the time it was believed that people of the clergy were appointed so by God which shows that people would have the utmost respect for people of the church but this was not the case with Parris. One of his enemies was Thomas Putnam who according to the plays commentaries had a brother that challenged Parris for the title of the reverend and achieved “two-thirds of the vote” but still did has his acceptance stopped for “reasons that are not known”. This shows that many people held grievances against Parris so it is not surprising that he was so paranoid about is position.
As the play progresses Parris” state of mind continues to decline. An example is when in Act 3 when Mr. Parris is “hardly able to contain his fear” as he is trying to get his point across to avoid being made out as a fool by Danforth who holds greater authority over Parris because he is deputy governor of the state. By that time in the play Danforth is far more respected and feared than Parris ever was and those are the reasons why Parris fears so much for his job. Danforth also represents the theocracy and cannot allow people to be found innocent as this goes against the theocracy and is thus greatly feared.
Parris is also always looking after his interests and never else seems to be bothered about the affairs of anyone else and comes across as a very self-obsessed individual. An example of this is when he and his niece Abigail Williams argue over the girls dancing in the woods. Parris is very quick to argue that the news of their activities would tarnish his name despite having his daughter unconscious as a result of the incident in the woods. This shows that he values his career over the life of his daughter. The primary motivating force behind Revd. Parris” actions are fear as he makes it obvious that he is scared that there are conspiracies in Salem to have him removed from the church and he always tries to manipulate situations to make himself come out looking good much like his niece, Abigail Williams. The commentary on Revd. Paris even states that he felt “he was being persecuted where ever he went” and the commentary also shows that Parris has an evident inferiority complex as it describes how “he would feel offended is someone rose to shut the door without first asking his permission”.
Both of these examples lead to the impression that Mr. Parris is a megalomaniac who does not possess the necessary personal skills to do the job he does. He is a very paranoid man who fears that people are out to get him which shows that it does not trust anyone then it must be hard for people to trust or like him. One of the only characters in The Crucible whose fears are entirely selfless is Revd. Hale of Beverley. Mr. Hale visits Salem to rid the village of the fictional witchcraft mayhem that has engulfed the village.
He deduces that the girls who were caught dancing in the village have a psychosomatic problem in that they believe that they are possessed by the devil. Mr. Hale believes that it is merely a problem inside the head of the girls which results in a public outcry of witchery and a court of law to be set up in Salem to investigate anyone accused by the girls of being a witch or wizard. When Mr. Hale first arrives in Salem he is greeted by the “delighted” Parris and other villagers such as Proctor go out of their way to speak with him.
As the play draws to a close the respect and hopes that people had in Mr. Hale seems to have diminished as the court from Boston seems to have put everyone on guard so that no-one can be trusted. It is at this point in the play that the situation in Salem is chaotic as everyone seems to be being accused and by this time Hale realizes that the girls are simply passing on their acts of vengeance by incriminating other people. Mr. Hale is a character who sees the good in people and is very afraid that innocent people will meet untimely deaths because of the fabricated stories of a group of spiteful jealous girls.
An example of Mr. Hale’s fear for people’s lives is at the end of Act3 when he says, “I denounce these proceedings, I quit this court” because he has become disillusioned with the court and brings it upon himself to make the other villagers what is going on in Salem. This is an excellent example of one of the only characters in the play whose fear is concerned with other people and not just himself as Mr. Hale even resigns his job in a bid for justice. By this time Hale also fears his conscience and the effect it is having on him.
He feels immense guilt after the mistake of signing the death warrant of the innocent and wants to rectify the situation by saving people's lives. To conclude I think that fears play an important role in The Crucible but to say that it was the single primary motivating force behind that actions of the characters would be wrong. This is because even though different types of fear are all displayed that other feelings such as pride and jealousy also play a crucial role because it seems to be that Proctor is more proud than afraid and that Abigail Williams feels nothing except hate and jealousy.
The climax of the play is John Proctor refusing to sign a confession to witchery and in turn signing his death warrant. This is a part of the play were all pretense and fear have left the body of John Proctor and the only thing he has is courage and pride as he dies a martyr. This shows that other feelings, not just fear can play an important or even a more important role as a motivating force behind the actions of a character.