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Mass Hysteria, Fear and Paranoia, and Its Effect on People

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Hysteria, fear and paranoia is constantly displayed by societies all over the world and has led to some of the most brutal behaviors by man, and some of the substantial catastrophes of organized society. In Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’, the Salem witch trials were occurring in the town of Salem. People started to blame others for the presence of witchcraft because everyone was unaware of what was going on and who was really involved with witchcraft, thus leading to mass hysteria. In the play, innocent people were blamed for witchcraft by others because, either they were a different race or ethnicity; they were poor or rich; or they were ranked low in their society. This relates to the 9/11 incidents of people blaming innocent people for their ethnicity. Hysteria, fear and paranoia can cause lucid thought to degrade, and eventually the disruption of civilized behavior.

In the Crucible, fear begins to arise after the girls of Salem are caught dancing.When the girls are caught, they blame their actions on the devil and Tituba. Everything went downhill when the girls refuse to confess which led to mass hysteria. ‘It is a providence, the thing is out now! It is a providence!’. – Mr. Putnam. This is going to fuel the mass hysteria in the play because the villagers are starting to blame one another on witchcraft. ‘Believe me, Mr Nurse, if Rebecca Nurse be tainted, then nothing’s left to stop the whole green world from burning”. This quote shows that innocent people are being blamed because of rumours being spread around the village. Hale now starts to recognize the intensity of everything that is happening, but fails to see the flaws in the accusations. In the tragedy of 9/11, Osama Bin Laden was the leader of this attack. His soldiers that he ordered were Muslim, and since the cause of mass hysteria, “citizens from around the globe have in the past been blaming Muslims for tragedies.” ‘The Crucible’ and 9/11 have many connections that were main events in history that were caused by tensions, impacts and reactions of people. “The Crucible” has proven that mass hysteria and fear was a weapon used by those in power to control their enemies and was used to silence the opposition and coerce others into false testimony.

Hysterical fear became unconscious means of asserting anger. People in Salem are paranoid as they start believing that the devil is attacking them. “I want to open myself! . . . I want the light of God, I want the sweet love of Jesus! I danced for the Devil; I saw him, I wrote in his book; I go back to Jesus; I kiss His hand. I saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw Goody Osburn with the Devil! I saw Bridget Bishop with the Devil!” Abigail confesses to consorting with the Devil. Then, as the next step in absolving herself of sin, she accuses others of being witches, thus shifting the burden of shame from her shoulders to those she names. Seeing Abigail’s success, the other girls follow suit, and with this pattern of hysterical, self-serving accusations, the witch trials get underway. Regarding fear, Danforth told Reverend Hale that ‘No uncorrupted man may fear this court, Mr. Hale! None!’ He believes that the residents of Salem have nothing to fear if they have nothing to hide. If, on the other hand, they do fear the court, then it must mean that they are afraid the court will find out about their corruption. When 9/11 happened, the country didn’t know what was going on at the time, let alone the people that were at the scene of tragedy. Many people and communities acted this way because “they were unaware of what was going on and didn’t know how to react,’’ which led to the public to panic and left families in fear. In the Crucible, Hysteria plays a major part in both causing the plot to move forward and in every interaction between characters. The constant fear and hysteria plays a big role in the book and it shapes how the characters responded and the results that affected them and the rest of the community.

Mass hysteria is something that will always be present in the world. The smallest things can be brought out of proportion and cause chaos for no reason. The Salem Witch Trials and the 9/11 incident are examples on how mass hysteria controlled the way people looked at others and how they lived. I think mass hysteria is needed to have a balance but I also think that many things that cause this hysteria are blown out of proportion and people make it seem bigger than they are thus creating unnecessary panic in the world. From the mass hysteria, fear and paranoia in “The Crucible”, we learned the value of maintaining one’s mental and emotional stability during times of crisis and the importance of controlling our fears and not let them control us. Also, that one must always make sure to be well informed before judging a situation and never leap into conclusions. Finally, that we must make our decisions wisely and with integrity for they may affect not only our lives, but those around us. 

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Mass Hysteria, Fear And Paranoia, And Its Effect On People. (2021, December 16). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 22, 2022, from
“Mass Hysteria, Fear And Paranoia, And Its Effect On People.” GradesFixer, 16 Dec. 2021,
Mass Hysteria, Fear And Paranoia, And Its Effect On People. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 May 2022].
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