The Harm Fear and Betrayal Can Cause

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Updated: Aug 15, 2023
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In the events that caused a great deal of fear and betrayal, such as the Salem witch trials, McCarthyism trials, and the treatment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, caused considerable harm to people. The Salem Witch Trials occurred from 1692 to 1693 when a group of young girls in the village declared that they were possessed by the devil. They accused numerous village women of witchcraft, a crime at that time. Two hundred and sixty-one years later, the McCarthyism Trials shook the United States with anti-communist suspicion and fear of foreign influence.

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Those suspected guilty were put on trial or accused, often revealing names of other communist sympathizers. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans were forced into relocation centers, misnamed as “concentration camps,” in California, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and Arkansas. In essence, these three events highlighted widespread fear of betrayal and terror among the people of the United States.

“In The Crucible, people betrayed each other out of fear of being hanged. A group of girls in the play determined the fate of many innocent people. Abigail states in The Crucible, “God made my face; you cannot want to tear my face. Envy is a deadly sin, Mary” (Miller). Abigail was very deceptive, and this caused betrayal in The Crucible on many occasions; she even betrayed one of her close friends to cover up her tracks. In Act III, Mary had come to confess, and Abigail made up that she was seeing a yellow bird. Abigail then pretended that it was Mary controlling it and was trying to make her do the devil’s work and lie. Everyone in the courtroom believed Abigail when, in reality, there was no bird, which then caused Mary to back out of her confession. In The Crucible, John Proctor expresses, “Because it is my name!

“I can’t have another life. I lied and bound myself with lies. I’m not worth the dust on the feet of those who hang! How can I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!” (Miller). Abigail’s betrayal spawned a chain reaction, instilling fear in the Proctors. When Mary backed out of her confession, she implicated John Proctor, alleging he was the mastermind behind everything and had coerced her. John, already guilty of adultery, now found this added to his list of crimes and he faced a death sentence. The church offered John an alternative: sign his name away and live, but besmirch his name and shame his family. A perfect echo of history, McCarthyism mirrors the events of The Crucible.

Similar to the Crucible, the Red Scare, also known as the McCarthyism era, both deal with false accusations and people losing their lives because of them. Miller states, “As people began to realize that they might be condemned as Communists regardless of their innocence, many ‘cooperated,’ attempting to save themselves through false confessions, creating the image that the United States was overrun with Communists and perpetuating the hysteria” (Miller). The thought of living in a country full of communist sympathizers put a huge strain on the nation. People were willing to accuse anyone and everyone who seemed to be trying to overthrow the government. This caused the imminent revolution which would change Americans’ everyday lifestyle. Miller explains, “Suspected Communists were encouraged to confess and to identify other Red sympathizers as a means of escaping punishment” (Miller). This caused everyone to watch their own backs, as it brought fear that they might get accused, which could lead to death. So any way out of that punishment, they would accuse anyone without proper evidence. Both events deal with fear of the unknown: no one knows what will happen next, leading to a pervasive fear throughout the country.

With personal experience of being in one of the internment camps, Gearge Takei explains what his life was like and the fears he had at the age of four. Takei explains, “America suddenly was swept up by hysteria. American citizens of Japanese ancestry were looked on with suspicion, fear, and outright hatred simply because we happened to look like the people that bombed Pearl Harbor” (Takei 3). Americans speculated that everyone with Japanese descent was part of the attack. People of Japanese descent feared for their lives, knowing that everyone in the country hated them and wanted them out of the country. This caused people to lose houses, jobs, and everything they had worked for. Takei also recalls, “I still remember the barbed wire fence that confined me. I remember the tall sentry tower number 8 with the machine guns pointed at us” (Takei 5). President Roosevelt had these camps put in place where 120,000 Japanese Americans were detained in their current place in the country. They were put there “for their own safety” when in reality the United States was just scared that Japanese Americans were part of the attack. In the camps, they were treated like animals and unjustly, merely because of their origins. These two stories both deal with the harsh realities of how they were treated in the camps the United States placed them in.

“Farewell to Manzanar” depicts how internment camps transformed the people she cherished into those she later feared. The passage stated, “Mama received nothing but threats and abuse for her attempts to comfort him” (J.W. Houston and J. Houston 2). These camps genuinely took a toll on people; the narrator’s father developed a drinking problem that soon spiraled into depression. As a result, the family became frightened of their own father due to his feelings about the entire situation. The mother attempted strenuously to help her husband escape that dark space, but she was apprehensive about assisting because of what he might do to her. Essentially, the passage implied, “Of course, you can’t answer NO NO. If you were to answer NO NO, they will send you back to Japan with the rest of the fools” (J.W. Houston and J. Houston). Later in these camps, a questionnaire was given with either the answer “YES YES” or “NO NO”, and one of the questions significantly determined whether they would be sent to a camp with the worst conditions or deported. Most of them answered “YES YES” out of fear; they migrated to America initially for a better life, so they were terrified of being sent back for denying something they didn’t believe in. Despite the grim perspective on these situations, there was actually a silver lining that emerged from this ordeal.

While it might be true that fear and betrayal can cause harm, they can nonetheless foster a positive outlook on things. As stated in The Crucible, “Your magic has made you; now I see some shred of goodness in you, John Proctor” (Miller). The fear of being hanged made him realize that he should not be afraid; he knew he was going to die an honest man. This knowledge allowed him to understand that only one person could truly judge him. Elizabeth replied in The Crucible, “Do as you will, I cannot be your judge. I will not judge you, John” (Miller). Elizabeth fears for John’s life, but she will not choose if he lives or dies; that decision is up to him.

Yet, the Proctor’s name will be ashamed and disowned by the town. The fear in Elizabeth made John’s decision easier, both for her and his future family. There might be a little harm that comes from fear and betrayal that carries some semblance of justice. However, the bad still overrides the good, and affects people and the country negatively. Despite the possibility that inducing fear in people might bring out their best traits, these events were not the correct way of doing so. George presented this when he said, “My father gave my brother and me small pieces of luggage to carry. We walked out and stood on the driveway, waiting for our mother to come out. When she finally did, she had our baby sister in one arm, a huge duffel bag in the other, and tears were streaming down both her cheeks. I will never be able to forget that scene; it is burned into my memory” (Takei 4). All the families were taken from their homes and everyday lives and put into these camps, uncertain of what would happen next. Many thought they would be tortured or, even worse, killed because of the actions of people who looked like them.

The passage states, “Those who were revealed, falsely or legitimately, as Communists, and those who refused to incriminate their friends, saw their careers suffer, as they were blacklisted from potential jobs for many years afterward” (Miller). Lives were ruined due to these accusations, which started a chain reaction leaving many people jobless and consequently homeless because no one wanted to hire those suspected of communist affiliations. Among the events that caused significant fear and betrayal were the Salem Witch Trials, the McCarthyism trials, and the unfair treatment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. All of these inflicted substantial harm. In “The Crucible,” Abigail caused a massive upheaval in the village that resulted in people’s deaths. Those caught in the crosshairs of the McCarthyism trials, also known as the Red Scare, lost their jobs and were killed due to baseless accusations. The horrendous treatment Japanese-Americans endured from the U.S., despite having no involvement in the attack on Pearl Harbor, was a gross violation of the Fifth Amendment. “Farewell to Manzanar” is a narrative that conveys her personal experiences and the impact living in the camps had on her family. All things considered, fear and betrayal have caused unnecessary fatalities and issues in the United States, casting a dark shadow over this period in the country’s history.

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The Harm Fear And Betrayal Can Cause. (2022, Aug 18). Retrieved from