Miller’s The Crucible Vs. McCarthyism
Arthur Millers play The Crucible was written in 1953, and even though it takes place under the Salem Witch Trials, which happened in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692, it is an allegory for McCarthyism that happened in the United States during the 1950s. There are a lot of parallels between the play and McCarthyism, and the most important one is innocent people being wrongfully accused and punished as a result.
During McCarthyism and The Crucible, many people got wrongfully accused. Neither the girls in The Crucible nor McCarthy had any proof that these people were guilty. McCarthy focused really hard on trying to free the country of the communists, who he meant was dangerous, and as a result ended up both killing, or ruining the life of a lot of noncommunist people. He killed a lot of innocent people based purely on accusations, but people didn’t stand up to him in fear that he would get rid of them as well. This made it possible for him to keep going. In The Crucible, a lot of people also were accused for something they had not committed. Abigail Williams and her followers accused many people of being witches. This resulted in a lot of humans getting hung or burned, which gave Abigail a feeling of power, which only made her accuse and kill more innocent people, especially people she wasn’t particularly fond of. The church stood with Abigail in belief that she was right and cleansing the city of unholy beings.
She actively ruined a lot of human’s life and even though a lot reacted to the false accusations and hangings, they were afraid to stand up against it in fear that they would be next.
This is seen in both the play, where the villagers did not stand up against the hangings in fear of getting themselves branded as witches as well, and during McCarthyism where a lot of the citizens and the media did not dare to go up against McCarthy because they feared that would make them seen as communist sympathizers or communists themselves. They can see themselves in the same position, and even though nobody wants to get hanged, they are afraid of ending up there themselves if they were to stand up against it. There were also a lot of people that only stood up against them when there were people that they knew where being accused. They would be willing to stand up for their loved ones, even when risking punishment on their own, but did not risk it for total strangers.
Those who were accused during McCarthyism were expected to sell out the other communist sympathizers, but because of the fact that they were innocent, they didn’t know the other communist sympathizers since they weren’t a part of that group. The same happened in The Crucible, the people who were already accused were expected to say the names of the other witches, but since none of them were actual witches they were not able to point out others. This resulted in coming up short, and failure in coming up with the other names resulted in other innocent people getting hanged or even worse crimes. The accused people had no clue what to say so most of them remained quiet and then got punished for not saying anything. Their only other choice to stay alive was to say innocent people’s names, but then they wouldn’t be any better than the girls in The Crucible or McCarthy, and it did not necessarily secure them, as in knowing other witches, or communists, often pointed to the fact that they were witches or communists themselves.
In conclusion, you can draw a lot of lines between Arthur Miller’s play and the real events of McCarthyism. A large amount of innocent people get accused of things they had no idea of, and no participation in. The Crucible makes for a great wake up call for the country in regards of what was happening in the fifties and of what can happen again if we’re not careful. And how easy it is to actually ruin the essence of people’s life, only on the basis of not agreeing to their worldviews or just not liking them in general.