The Crucible

I actually wasn’t aware that The Crucible had anything to do with the cold war, but that comparison really made me appreciate the play more. The story becomes richer when you think of it as just an earlier example of the human potential for mass hysteria, which was also present in Miller’s time. The cultural transcendence of this issue, which can only be fully understood after knowing the historical context and message of the play, is impressive. The differences between these two examples of hysteria (cold war and witch hunt hysteria) is also interesing. There were real communist spies within America, but there were no witches in sixteenth century Salem. This demonstrates how strong of an emotion fear is. The objective truth doesn’t seem to be as important, even in the cold war/Mccarthy scenario. Rather mass fear and paranoia can create reality for all intensive purposes, and justify deplorable actions as it did in Salem, and for people like Mccarthy. Such justification of craziness brings to mind the complacency of people and their active ignorance of the evils of society we discussed in regards to Heart Of Darkness. Once things are made official and legitimate, or as Conrad put it “efficient”, (as “efficiency is saves us”) seemingly immoral acts can become justified or necessary to people.

On another note, I’m unclear, although interested, about how observing tragedy can be therapeutic, as was mentioned in lecture. Is it a case of morbid fascination and taking comfort in knowing we don’t have it as bad as any given tragic hero does?

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  1. Good connection to active ignorance discussed with Conrad’s text. Though I wonder how many people ended up “naming names” in the play or confessing just because to do otherwise meant such bad consequences? In that situation, if one spoke up against what was going on, one was likely to get charged oneself. When all that’s needed to be charged and convicted is the word of one or two people, others are going to keep their mouths shut even if they’re not complacent!

    On tragedy and therapeutics: Aristotle said, as noted in lecture, that tragedy can bring about a “catharsis” of pity and fear. But from what I understand, he never clearly defined exactly what he meant by “catharsis.” One possible interpretation is that if these emotions get brought up in a controlled environment, where what’s happening isn’t real, then we can better learn to deal with them, and possibly to control them when the events are real. I’m not sure this is exactly what Aristotle meant, though. I’ve also heard some say that maybe he just meant it to refer to a kind of satisfying resolution to the events in a play: there is tension, there are these strong emotions, and somehow an appropriate resolution is found (even if it’s sad and pitiful…it may still be fitting given the events). So it makes sense that Oedipus blinds himself, and Kreon wants to die, at the end of their plays; this feels like an adequate resolution (supposedly). I think I can see that sort of idea at the end of this play as well; Proctor redeems himself in the end to some degree, even if he ends up dying.

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