Cases of Hysteria in Literature and Politics

Topics: Mass Hysteria

The definition of hysteria is “exaggerated or uncontrollable emotion or excitement, especially among a group of people”. The Crucible was written closely after World War II when there was fear of the American government. During this time, people constantly got accused of being in cahoots with the Soviet Union government. Arthur Miller was accused of being a member of a communist writer group. The accusations were very similar to those made during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, when people were accused of working for the Devil.

The Crucible was written to show the causes of mass hysteria and warn of the consequences, something that is still relevant in modern time.

Mass hysteria has many causes and effects, some that can completely ruin peoples lives. In the play, The Crucible, By Arthur Miller, we experience the commotion of hysteria through the dialogue of the characters. The main character of Act 1 has “discovered witchcraft” in his house, “Putnam: You are not undone! Let you take hold here.

Wait for no one to change you – declare it yourself. You have discovered witchcraft –

Parris: In my house? In my house, Thomas? They will topple me with this!” (Miller, 572-573). The panic Reverend Parris is experiencing is because of his wish to maintain a good reputation in the town. This panic will lead to a chain of hysteria in the town leading to the trials. The Crucible by Arthur Miller also shows the consequences of mass hysteria. During this part of the play Giles Corey has dies protecting a witness of a crime,” Elizabeth: Great stones they lay upon his chest until he plead aye or nay.

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They say he give them but two words. ‘More weight’, he says. And died” (Miller, 671). People involved in the trials often faced death for denying or not confessing to the crime they supposedly committed. Giles Corey, would not speak when asked the name of the person who witnessed Thomas Putnam accusing people to take their land. He wanted to protect them from the torture he knew his wife was going through. They thought pressing him would force him to tell but he outsmarted them so they never got the name. The consequences were more brutal then now because there wasn’t as many laws in place then.

Hysteria is still very relevant today, particularly in America’s politics. Upon the election of Donald Trump in 2016, hysteria has taken over the political aspects of society. An article posted on, by Eric Levitz outlines some of the things Trump has done causing fear in America. Trump hasn’t always been very thorough with his plans no matter how much he says he is, “On the 96th day of his presidency, (Trump) unveiled a tax-reform plan that was less detailed then the blueprint he has campaigned on” (Levitz). Trump’s budget director told him it wouldn’t be done until June 2017 but he promised it to be revealed the following Wednesday. The administration the proceeded to rush to produce the tax-reform plan. But, it should have taken time since it was a plan to radically reform the world’s largest national economy. Trump is also a constant on Twitter™, where he tweets about things that prove to be rather problematic. The article by Eric Levitz includes tweets from Trump and the explanation to why they were shared on social media. For instance, on June 5th, 2017 Trump tweeted, “Pathetic excuse by London Mayor Sadiq Khan who had to think fast on his ‘no reason to be alarmed’ statement. MSM is working hard to sell it!”. This tweet followed the June 3rd, 2017 terrorist attack in London, England. This attack took place on the London Bridge, where a van was driven into pedestrians, killing 8 victims. In his presidency, Trump has “…crassly exploited public tragedies” (Levitz) in order to fuel the fear in minority groups who are vulnerable. Trump has caused much of the hysteria in modern time as he is not careful with what he says to and about powerful people. He is not concentrating on his task as president which is to protect America.

The Crucible was written during one of the most historical times of hysteria, and its goal was to highlight the causes and effects of mass hysteria. A cause of hysteria is the panic of one person creating a train of panic, and an effect was people facing serious consequences. These causes and effects are still relevant in politics today. I would be in modern society’s best interest to have the facts of an alarming event before panicking, as it could be detrimental to the order of society.

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Cases of Hysteria in Literature and Politics. (2022, Apr 23). Retrieved from

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