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Logical Fallacies in The Crucible

Logical Fallacies in The Crucible
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  • 0:00 Hysteria
  • 0:35 Hasty Generalization
  • 1:07 False Authority
  • 1:40 Fallacy of the Single Cause
  • 2:11 Begging the Question &…
  • 3:08 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

'The Crucible' by Arthur Miller is a play about group hysteria. It is set during the Salem Witch Trials, but is an allegory for the hysteria that occurred during the Red Scare and McCarthyism. In this lesson, we will look at the logical fallacies that led to panic.

Hysteria

Do you remember the Ebola scare of 2014? Hysteria spread across the United States that the virus would wipe out the country, when actually, only eight people in the U.S. were treated for the disease and there was only one death. This is an example of a logical fallacy.

A logical fallacy is an error in judgment that invalidates a person's conclusion. There are many types of logical fallacies that appear in literature. In this lesson, we will look at some of the fallacies in The Crucible by Arthur Miller.

Hasty Generalization

The first logical fallacy occurs when Ruth becomes ill. Her mother, Goody Putnam, says, 'She ails as she must - she never waked this morning, but her eyes open and she walks, and hears naught, sees naught, and cannot eat. Her soul is taken, surely.' This is an example of a hasty generalization. A hasty generalization happens when a character jumps to conclusions based on limited evidence. Since all illnesses are not the result of possession, Goody Putnam's deduction is faulty.

False Authority

An appeal to false authority is when a person uses an authority figure as evidence when that person isn't really qualified. An example of a false authority fallacy occurs when Reverend Parris sends for Reverend Hale to assess whether or not there is an evil presence in Salem. Goody Putnam says he has experience in the dark arts, and that he 'found a witch in Beverly last year, and let you remember that.' The assumption that naming a witch once before makes Reverend Hale an expert that will be able to root out evil in Salem is illogical.

Fallacy of the Single Cause

When Goody Putnam describes Ruth's illness, it is an example of fallacy of the single cause. Fallacy of the single cause is when a person believes that there is only one possible explanation, when in reality, there are several. Goody says, 'Last night my Ruth were ever so close to their little spirits; I know it, sir. For how else is she struck dumb now except some power of darkness would stop her mouth?' There are many more logical reasons why a person would not speak besides being possessed by dark spirits, but Goody Putnam considers it the only one.

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