The Crucible - Fear Makes People Either Attack or Retreat Essay

Fear makes people either attack or retreat – Within my expository essay I have chosen to focus on elements of Arthur Millers, ‘The Crucible’, which Illustrates the notion that fear creates various and diverse responses in people. My essay revolves around characters who exhibit signs of attack in the face of conflict, and conversly those who retreat. I have also drawn on the documentry about the Tank Man to explore further the way in which people will react when faced with conflict.

Considering my audience, teens and young adults, I have chosen to write in a formal manner, although I will tone it down to appeal more to their language and to retain their attention. Fear is defined as an emotional response to a percieved threat; it is a survival mechanism, and, depending on the person, it determines how we react when we are faced with such confrontations. Arthur Miller presents us with many examples of the different aspects of fear triggered reactions present in the small, once peacful town of Salem. To retreat is just the first of the three reactions that will be discussed.

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This trait is displayed through Reverand John Hale, a minister who specalises in the detection of witchcraft, with his presence in Salem setting the hysteria in motion, though he soon recognises his folly and hastily decamps. To attack is the second reaction, and there is no finer example than the one brave man who, despite adversity and slaughter of his peers, made a bold statment that arguably changed the course of history. A more erratic character can show signs of both these traits, just like the easily swayed Mary Warren who both attacks and retreats in fear of Abigails wrath.

Reverand Hale is a man of God and therefore is an expert on perceiving “evil spirits”. He is impeccably honest with good intentions, only using his gifts of high religion to enforce holy laws against all who is tainted. We see Hale’s character slowly change over the course of the witch trials. His confidence and determination transforms into self loathing for the innocent blood that now stains his once pure hands. The events occuring in the court room in Act 3 see Hale outwardly refute the court, showing his distaste towards the 22 death warrants he has signed and the many more that are to come.

He also begins to fear that other unseen threats are at work, though the citizens of Salem are too ignorant to see them – “private vengence is working through this testimony! ”. He is of course refering to Abigail Williams, who builds up such an hysteric fear in the court that Hale, already pushed to his boundaries, storms out announcing his resignation. This scene is the turning point of Hale’s character. He is faced with an overwhelming fear for his fate and the fate of the town that his good sense isn’t enough to stop him from taking the easy way out and abandoning his responsibilities.

The Tiananmen Square protests was an inhumane chapter in China’s history. It saw the heinous slaughter of thousands of students, teachers, and workers who were all united to serve one purpose: To demand more freedom, more democracy and more rights. This demand was met with armed forces who in return met resistence with violence. July 5th marked the date when a lone Chinese man weilding shopping bags, fed up with the senseless turmoil around him, made a stand, literally, in front of several armoured tanks. Though this moment was short-lived, it captured peoples hearts all over the world.

Ones age, ethnicity or ignorance didn’t matter when glancing at this moment captured in time, it was instantly decipherable to all. The Tank Man truely showed an act of extraordinary bravery even when he was faced with the fear of being anhilated on the spot. Mary Warren is a character of weak determination who allows herself to be bullied constantly due to her feeble resolve and desire to be recognised in the Salem community. She is not an evil character, however these traits make her a promising target for the manipulative Abigail.

In Act 2 we see Abigail’s seemingly toxic words begin to seep into the conscience of Mary, using her control to attack the Procters, initiating a relentless witch hunt aimed at the vulnerable Elizabeth. However, Abigail’s malice seems to wear off slightly as Mary is able to retreat from her side long enough for her to regain some commonsense and testify against the false allegations. Abigail isn’t so easily defeated; she counters this attack with one of her own, and just like that, Mary is her puppet once again being upheld by strings woven with lies and strengthened by fear.

Mary Warren’s extremely weak will and timid nature often make her susceptible to attacks like Abigails, though her purity can occasionally prevail and she is able to gain control of her own fate. Fear has played a major role in many of histories controversial events. Despite the context and era, one feature remains the same – the personality of the character dictates how they will respond to a perceived threat. Only when this occurs can ones’ true nature shine through whether it be honorable or shameful.


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