The Crucible And Schindler’s List As Allegories For The Era Of Mccarthyism
In 1693, a woman is hung as a witch. In 1944, a woman is shot for being an educated Jew. Both of these situations have one thing in common: they are caused by fear which becomes paranoia. ‘The Crucible’ (1952), by Arthur Miller, explores fear through being accused as a witch and the paranoia of witches through the representation of McCarthyism. The play also explores the paranoia of losing one’s position which is evident in Reverend Parris’s case. Similarly, in the iconic film, ‘Schindler’s List’ (1993), directed by Steven Spielberg, the exploration of fear and paranoia is through being persecuted for being a Jew and is represented through the perspectives of the victims to portray the reality that they had to face.
“The Crucible” by Arthur Miller is a historical tragedy regarding the Salem witch trials, an allegory for the era of McCarthyism in the 1950s. The name Salem was taken from the Hebrew Shalom meaning peace, which is ironic as Salem is in a state of chaos with the whole town being paranoid about witchcraft, which prompted the witch trials. This paranoia is established in the opening scene of the play, with a sense of tension, and a fear of witchcraft is created through Betty’s illness which she fakes to conceal her deeds as she is afraid of being punished for a sin. Abigail Williams, a sixteen year old teenager, is the antagonist that fueled the witch trials by leading the other girls to accuse innocent townspeople to erase themselves of their misdeeds. When Abigail threatens to beat Betty for not waking up, Betty’s high modality of ‘want’ in “I want my mama!” portrays her fear of Abigail which causes a need for safety and familiarity. Moreover, when Abigail accuses Elizabeth of stabbing her with the needle using her spirit, Elizabeth’s repetition of ‘noose’ for “The noose, the noose is up!” emphasises that she is afraid that she will be the next victim. Reverend Samuel Parris, the town’s minister, believes that everyone is working against him. The animal imagery in, “They will howl me out of Salem” depicts his paranoia about losing his position, which is egocentric. This is to the point where he cares about himself more than his own daughter evident in his syntax: “ now my ministry’s at stake, my ministry and perhaps your cousin’s life” which portrays Parris’s egocentrism through the low modality of ‘perhaps’ and the listing in order of priorities, himself first then his daughter. Thus, Miller’s representation of fear and paranoia through the McCarthyism era is through, Abigail scaring the other characters and Parris’s paranoia about losing his position, to warn the audience of the consequences of hysteria.
“Schindler’s List” is one of the most powerful films of all time, set in a most horrendous period in human history. The film is a representation of the reality that the Jewish Holocaust victims had to face with the constant fear of death, and the constant paranoia at being persecuted. As opposed to other modern films, “Schindler’s List’ is mainly shot in black and white. The use of this colour scheme deepens the impact of the story by taking the audience back to World War II. The impact of the lack of colour is shown in the shower scene where the women’s faces are bathed in white light while they stare up at the showerheads in fear of being gassed. Additionally, a full shot of a Jewish engineer being shot in the head with the contrast of her black blood spraying onto the white snow enhances the brutality of these scenes and emphasises the split between life and death. She is persecuted for being correct about the foundations being poorly constructed and the Nazis did not want to look weak because she was right. Ironically, after she is killed, they tell the workers to tear the building down and rebuild it. Just before she is shot, she says, “It will take more than that”, which represents the strength of the Jewish people as it will take more than that to crush them. Furthermore, the well-known little girl in the red dress is oblivious to the violence surrounding her as she walks through it and the motif of the little girl conveys the death and spilt blood of the innocent Jews. In addition, a mid shot of Lewarto with Goeth standing over him, aiming a gun at his head for not making hinges fast enough, shows the fear in his face. Hence, Spielberg’s representation of the reality of the Holocaust, through the experience of the Jewish victims, with the fear and paranoia of being persecuted and the fear of the Nazis is to inform and remind the audience of the corrupt side of human nature.
Both texts, therefore, explore fear and paranoia but, one through the representation of McCarthyism to warn audiences against hysteria and the other, through the representation of the Holocaust to inform and remind audiences of the human ability to dehumanise the other.