Comparison of the Salem Witch Trials and Japanese Internment Camps: Fake Accusations and Hysteria
When a group of young girls started displaying unconventional behavior, the closely-bound Puritan community of Salem, Massachusetts was unable to explain their bizarre actions and came to a conclusion. Witches had invaded Salem.
This conclusion quickly led to panic, paranoia, fear, distrust, chaos, and murder. 260 years later, Arthur Miller wrote his play, The Crucible, depicting the tension between the repressive forces of a social order and individual freedom. The antagonist in The Crucible is the town of Salem, whose residents temporarily lost their sense of community and vilified one another. When something like this happens, and distrust takes place of order in a society, chaos is bound to ensue.
Likewise, this was the case throughout the United States during World War II, at the time of Japanese internment camps. The Japanese Internment Camps were a series of camps set up around the U.S. to house all Japanese Americans who were all believed to be helping the Japanese during World War II. In both of these events, when fear strikes a country or city, nobody is safe from being accused and the “weird” are often the accused.
In both of the events, the accused were sentenced to whatever the punishment was without any real concrete evidence to prove that they were guilty of their crimes. Despite not having any evidence, the courts still carried out the orders to send the Japanese Americans to camps. “Despite the lack of any concrete evidence, Japanese Americans were suspected of remaining loyal to their ancestral land” (ushistory.org n.pag.). This means that although not all Japanese Americans remained loyal to their ancestral land, all of them were sent to camps even though the court could not prove that they would remain loyal and help Japan during the war. With punishment being very demoralizing, and in some cases death even occurred within the witch trials such as, “Both groups were subjected to punishment without any evidence that they had done anything wrong.” (Jacinto n.pag.). During these two events, the accused couldn’t do anything to prevent this or go against them so they just took the punishments.
On top of having no concrete evidence to support the claims the court made to the accused, hysteria was beginning to emerge in all the fear that the people started to experience which lead to nobody being safe or trusting anyone else, because anyone could have been blamed at the time. During the trials, in The Crucible, when the girls were first caught dancing in the woods, Hale was getting Abigail to confess when suddenly Mrs.Putnam brings in Tituba. Abigail pointed at her and said, “She made me do it! She made Betty do it!” (Miller 45). This illustrates that even though Tituba helped all the girls out in the woods with getting the dance started, Abigail betrays her to save herself. It also shows how quickly people can turn on others to save themselves from punishments by blaming anyone. Along with the hysteria that was going around in both The Crucible and during WWII, the ones that were blamed were often the “weird people” or the suspected people who did the crime.
Just like in The Crucible, the people in America became fearful of what the Japanese Americans were going to do to them and hurt the war effort. After Pearl Harbor, “The mass hysteria started over fear of their neighbor, both incidents caused an uproar in the community.” (Jacinto n.pag.). People were shocked that this was happening and didn’t know how to react so they all panicked and did what they did.
The last comparison between the Salem Witch Trials and the Japanese Internment Camps is that during both times, no one was safe; everyone had to be ready if they were accused or suspected to be accused. In Salem, nobody knew if they were going to be the next accused. Likewise, during WWII the Japanese Americans didn’t know if they were going to be the ones to be accused but also suspected it would happen because of the incident that happened at Pearl Harbor. When Reverend Hale came over to the Proctor’s house and told them that Elizabeth was mentioned in court and that he came from Rebecca Nurse’s house Elizabeth responded in shock: “Rebecca’s charged!” (Miller 80).
This shows that Abigail falsely accuses the most honest person in the city, Rebecca Nurse, for doing something she never did. She was unable to back up her claim with any concrete evidence as well. It also makes evident that if someone makes a claim towards someone being guilty, people will follow along if it sounds like it could be true. This then causes more people to believe these false accusations. Along with being accused, Martha Corey was accused of reading “mysterious” books and teaching herself to read fortunes. At the beginning of Act 3, Martha is confronted by Hathorne by saying, “there is abundant evidence in our hands to show that you have given yourself to the reading of fortunes. Do you deny it?” (Miller 110). Abigail once again had accused an innocent person for reading strange books. This is another example where Abigail accuses a very well respected person in town. Martha was well known for showing up to church, but her accusations discredited her reputation.
People are not safe from being accused when some kind of fear has struck the city or country. Something that can prevent innocent people from getting accused as mentioned before is either the possession or lack of legitimate evidence to back up a claim. Another is the ability to challenge the court. Both the Salem Witch Trials and the times of Japanese Internment Camps are dark days in our country, led by fear, hate, and paranoia.
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