Whether they are positive or negative, experiences faced by two or more individuals provide an insight into the complexity of a situation through their ability to reveal a range of human emotions. The allegorical play The Crucible (1953) by Arthur Miller and poem ‘London’ from Songs of Experience (1794), written by William Blake demonstrate the scope of emotions that arise from the impactful nature of both hysteria and oppression when collectively experienced. Being an allegory, The Crucible provides distinct links to the HUAC proceedings during the 1950s by exploring the practice of making accusations with no existing evidence. My visual representation portrays a collective experience of both hysteria and oppression, with the collective experience symbolised through the utilisation of a boat, highlighting the idea of, “We are all in the same boat”.
Through a collective experience, hysteria and its provocative influence on people can reveal a range of human emotions. Before he wrote The Crucible, Miller held the belief that in the 17th century the government was very unjust as it was judgemental, restricted personal freedom and provided no vent for human emotions, which is what he thought ultimately caused the Salem witch trials. Miller demonstrates the impactful role that hysteria plays in uncovering a range of emotions, one instance being in act four when Hale is overwhelmed with guilt as Proctor is about to face execution. Hale aims to stop this, blaming himself for allowing past executions and fearing more accounts of innocents dying, evident in the lines, “What profit him to bleed? Shall the dust praise him?”. The fear and panic demonstrated through this moment of hysteria is revealed in Hale’s personification of dust, as he insists on convincing Elizabeth, that maintaining a good name is not worth his life. This rise in hysteria is further emphasised through Miller’s stage directions stating that Hale “[drops to his knees]”, increasing the overall drama and moral defeat highlighted within this emotion filled scene. The reader develops a further understanding of hysteria surrounding witch accusations, as Giles, becoming bothered by doubt in his wife Martha Corey, indirectly accuses her through his chat with Hale as he says, “Last night-mark this-I tried and tried and could not say my prayers. And then she close her book and walks out of the house, and suddenly-mark this-I could pray again!”. The quick succession of conjunctions present through the polysyndeton enhances the fear and anxiety felt by Giles. Miller demonstrates how easily mass hysteria caused innocent people to be convicted of witches with no real evidence provided, linking to the corrupt nature of power in the 1950s. In my visual representation, I used the boat to demonstrate that individuals are not only restricted physically but also mentally, limited to experiencing emotions indicating hysteria, such as fear, misery and anger. The weather and greyscale colours are also used to emphasise the mood of this dangerous situation.
Similarly, William Blake provides a key insight to the collective experience of hysteria by demonstrating the range of emotions that can be prompted within such a poor state of mind. Society during the 18th century was encouraged to bottle up emotions and present an ideal image of themselves to the world. However, Blake’s poem shows the effects and suffering resulting from the industrial revolution leading to a point where suppression of emotions could longer be enforced. The communal experience of hysteria is represented through the lines, “In every cry of every Man, In every Infants cry of fear, In every voice: in every ban.”. Blake’s use of anaphora enables the reader to understand the severe impact of hysteria present, revealing the immense struggle and sense of moral defeat faced by “every” person in London during the industrial revolution period. It is clear to see that the overwhelming nature of hysteria unleashes a range of uncontrollable emotions such as fear, sadness and hopelessness, which are all collectively experienced, with Blake stating that they are present in “every voice”. Blake’s purpose of writing the poem is to expose the negative aspects surrounding the human condition, in his aim to improve the quality of life of a society operating under such corrupt government. The conclusion of this stanza aims to give further insight into the complexities of the public’s situation, through the line, “The mind-forg’d manacles I hear” in which the metaphor of these manacles (chains) being “mind-forg’d” conveys the fact that people’s psychological state is attacked. From this line, it can be deduced that that their freedom is restricted, which is essentially what causes them to experience this shared hysteria, allowing emotions entailing misery and hopelessness to prevail.
An individual’s experience of oppression may be a result of the unjust practice of religion by authoritative figures. Throughout the 1950s, HUAC’s position in terms of power increased with oppressive measures such as blacklisting, been taken to ensure the damaging reputation of the accused. In The Crucible, Danforth and Hathorne blindly believe their decisions are beneficial to the town of Salem, supposedly being guided by God. The audience understands the oppression experienced by Proctor as a result of Judge Danforth’s misguidance highlighted through the harsh pressure and force he places on Proctor evident in the lines, “Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang!”. The consistent occurrence of ecphonesis and repetition of “because” through the anaphora within Proctor’s speech places emphasis on the emotions of anger and fear revolving around the threat of a damaged reputation. It is clearly evident that these emotions all arise from the oppression faced by Proctor, with Miller revealing how simply it can provoke violent and defensive responses. Giles also becomes a prime target of this oppression for not revealing his informant and as a result, convicted of contempt of court. Giles says, “You know well why not! He’ll lay in jail if I give his name!”. Miller’s incorporation of ecphonesis within these lines are used to convey the fury and exasperation portrayed in Giles during this oppressive experience, revealed through the stage directions which state that he, “[hesitates, then bursts out]” as a result of disbelief and shock concerning this unfair treatment. This demonstrates how easily cruel conclusions were made between Hathorne and Danforth as they took advantage of theocracy, claiming God justifies their actions, even actions of which escalated from the conviction of Giles, to his death. In my visual representation, weather acts as a symbol for religion to demonstrate its effect on waves (authoritative figures), hence revealing how it can be used to cause a sense of oppression felt by individuals through instilling emotions of fear, misery and anger.
Likewise, Blake outlines the oppression experienced as a consequence of individuals blindly submitting to the Church’s corruption of God. During the industrial revolution, the Church was used by the government to inform everyone that suffering in this life should be accepted in order to achieve greater rewards and eternal life in heaven. Throughout the first stanza the reader is able to gather an understanding that people are afflicted by sorrow and distress, from which a sense of desolation is depicted in the lines, “And mark in every face I meet / Marks of weakness, marks of woe”. The anaphora places emphasis on the repetition of “Marks of”, reinforcing the idea that everyone is undergoing oppression as a by-product of submitting to the corrupt practice of religion. This idea is further emphasised through the plural of the word “Mark”, highlighting the fact that there are multiple accounts clarifying the psychological abuse faced by the public and further uncovering the severe effect of oppression on vulnerable individuals. Blake aims to show that these emotions of sorrow and distress exist across all faces, demonstrating that everyone is bonded by this suffering of pain and misery during this phase of oppression. The cyclical effect created throughout the ABAB rhyme scheme, reiterates the emotions of fear, misery and hopelessness surrounding this atmosphere of oppression, experienced under a corrupt government and Church. Blake further discloses the inhumane aspects of oppression through the lines, “How the Chimney-sweepers cry / Every blackning Church appalls”. The juxtaposition of “blackning” and “Church” is used by Blake to further convey his attitudes towards the Church, asserting his anger towards the poor quality of life in London depicted through the children’s emotions of misery and depression. Blake believed that permitting the exploitation of children heavily contradicted the Christian beliefs which preach the message of loving all.
Whether they are positive or negative, shared human experiences provide an insight into the complexity of a situation, demonstrating their ability to reveal a range of human emotions. Throughout the allegorical play The Crucible and the poem ‘London’, the audience is exposed to the human experiences of hysteria and oppression, understanding the range of emotions that can arise as a result of their significant impacts on the human state of mind.