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The Crucible by Arthur Miller - Barron's Booknotes

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Abigail has to get out of this. "I never called him! Tituba,
Tituba..." and we're off. Now Abigail can confess everything
because Tituba made her do it: made her drink blood, made her
laugh at prayer, made her dream corruptions and stand "in the
open doorway and not a stitch upon my body!" What answer
can poor Tituba make to such a deluge of accusations? "No I
didn't"? Who's going to believe that? On the contrary, the witch
has been found.

Tituba's in a terrible jam. When she denies the charge that she
compacted with the Devil, her master threatens to whip her to
death, and Mr. Putnam adds that she must be hanged if she will
not confess. Very well, she'll confess. If you had to choose
between a noose and a false confession, which would you
choose? (Remember your answer for later.)

But to Tituba, it may not have been such a lie. The Devil is real
to these people. If they haven't seen him "in the flesh," he is an
active figure in their imaginations. He is the Author of all
Temptations, the Father of Lies. And so, if a good Christian
sins, it must be because, in some way, "the Devil made him do
it."

The point here is that Hale and the others lead Tituba into her
confession by giving her nowhere else to turn. And once she
starts, the emotion of releasing pent-up guilt and anger is so
powerful that it sucks Abigail and then Betty into its vortex.
Witchcraft has been revealed.

NOTE: But is the witchcraft real? Or are the girls and Tituba
"pretending," as Mary Warren will later say? Modern
psychology explains what happened in Salem in 1692 as a case
of "mass hysteria." Hysteria often occurs when a person can't or
won't express powerful emotions-rage, say, or fear-which then
find an outlet in bizarre forms of behavior: outbursts of laughter
or fits of weeping for no apparent reason, paralysis of the limbs
for which no physical cause can be found, sometimes dancing or
trying to fly. And hysteria can be contagious, especially in
communities with strongly shared values and strict codes of
conduct. To those who "catch it," the affliction is completely
real, they simply cannot control themselves.



But is hysteria the case here? Let's look at two striking moments
in this climactic scene to see if we can get a clue. The first
happens during Tituba's "confession." Hale and Parris are
pressing her for the names of the people she's seen with the
Devil. Instead of giving these names right away, she bursts out,
"in a fury:"

He say Mr. Parris must be kill!... Mr. Parris mean man and no
gentle man, and he bid me rise out of my bed and cut your
throat!

This is a violent non sequitur and, as such things often do, it
tells us a lot of what Tituba really feels about her master.

There are three possible explanations for this outburst: 1) Tituba
is being sly-she hates her master and sees this as a chance to get
back at him; 2) Tituba has fantasized killing Parris, especially
when he mistreated her, but she can't admit this to herself and
blames it on the Devil; 3) The Devil actually came to her as she
says, that is, Tituba, who has a vivid imagination, really
believes what she's saying. The author leaves the choice up to
us. What is clear is that all the people in the room take Tituba's
statements as fact.

All of them, that is, with the possible exception of Abigail
Williams. Throughout Tituba's confession Abby has remained
silent. Suddenly she rises, "staring as though inspired," and cries
out:

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