The Link Between Mccarthyism And The Crucible

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Throughout history there have been times which have brought out the worst instincts in even the best people, leading to skepticism and fear and causing neighbors and colleagues to turn against one another. One such incident, known as the Salem Witch Trials, occurred in Salem, Massachusetts in the late 1600’s. Another incident, often referred to as McCarthyism or the Red Scare, occurred in the 1950’s and spread throughout the United States. During the time of McCarthyism, Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible, a book about the Salem Witch Trials that was created as an allegory to the Red Scare. In The Crucible, Miller draws parallels between the Salem Witch Trials and McCarthyism, highlighting evil tendencies that can arise in human nature when panic ensues and the harm it can cause to society, while also noting key differences between the two scenarios.

McCarthyism, also known as the Red Scare, was a fear of Communism that stemmed from the political actions of Senator Joseph McCarthy, who held office in the 1950’s shortly after World War II. Senator McCarthy promoted the idea that communism had infiltrated the United States of America and that communists were present everywhere. They were doctors, lawyers, politicians, and neighbors seeking to harm the nation. The senator accused specific members of his opposing political party and other individuals of being Communist. This caused panic and widespread fear. Individuals were forced to have to defend themselves or risk facing the consequences of being labeled a Communist.

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People that were believed to be communists were usually fired from their jobs. Many Hollywood actors that were accused of being communist or of being unopposed to communism were called communist sympathizers and were fired and blacklisted from being able to work at major film production companies, “Actors who refused to give testimony disappeared both from the large film screen and the small television screens” (Popkin 140). Many people who were falsely accused had their lives ruined and several were even incarcerated. Most of the time little to no evidence was needed for an individual to be found guilty of being a communist. Many individuals began to accuse others as a means of targeting enemies or of seeking revenge. One of the primary ways to ensure one’s security after being framed as a communist was to accuse others of being communist even if the accusations were false. This cycle of lies, panic and fear led to chaos and desperation, causing citizens to turn against one another.

Arthur Miller, a famous playwright, wrote The Crucible during the era of McCarthyism. The Crucible was written about the Salem Witch Trials that occurred in 1962, in which 19 individuals were hanged after being accused and charged with participating in witchcraft (Miller vii). Miller first learned about the Salem witch trials while studying at the University of Michigan (Miller viii). He chose to write a play about the tragedy because of the parallels to the hysteria that was created by the communist accusations of the McCarthy era.

The Crucible begins with young girls who have become ill and speculation that their illness is the result of witchcraft. Miller exposes problems among characters in the town regarding deeds to land, adultery, miscarriages and religion. These issues have caused conflict in the past but when speculation arises about witchcraft within the town, their panic and mistrust of one another begin to spiral out of control. As the characters explore the possibility of witchcraft as the culprit, Pastor Hale enters the scene with a plan to find out if the devil is behind the girls’ sickness. The more he inquires about the events that transpired the night before, the more the characters begin to buy into the idea that there are witches in the

While in McCarthyism, many people were accused of being communists, many people that lived in Salem were wrongly accused of being witches. To be convicted as a witch, a person only had to be reported with ”evidence”. The evidence was usually fabricated because witches and magic do not exist, “Mary Warren, did you witch her? I say you, do you send your spirit out” (Miller 101)? One of the only ways a person could be caught and survive being accused of being a witch was for the person to cleanse their sins and work with God against satan and expose those who worked with satan. People would accuse others they did not like or for their own gain so they could get rid of them in a legal way. From easy convictions to ruining people’s lives with little to no remorse, McCarthyism and the Salem Witch Trials share many similarities.

While there are many similarities between Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and McCarthyism, there are also many differences that show each case’s uniqueness. In McCarthyism, the primary fear was communism. McCarthy believed communists infiltrated the United States of America and the communists were spreading their beliefs and trying to take over the government. The Salem Witch Trials in The Crucible have a lower amount of affected individuals, but still have a high percent of the town’s population affected. The accusations began with a group of young girls that were caught engaging in a witchlike ritual in a forest, “I was Tituba waving her arms over the fire when I came to you… I heard screeching and gibberish” (Miller 10). One of the girls, Abigail, frames a majority of the people convicted of witchery. One victim accused by Abigail was Elizabeth Proctor. Elizabeth Proctor was the wife of John Proctor, a man Abigail had an affair with, “I look for John Proctor that took me from my sleep and put knowledge in my heart” (Miller 22)! Abigail wanted to get rid of Elizabeth to be with him. Even though McCarthy was a catholic and attracted many other Catholics, “it was widely believed in the United States that the Wisconsin senator had the backing of the Catholic Church. This was not so” (De Santis 1-2) he did not have the support of the catholic church. Contrary, the Salem Witch Trials were operated by Christians such as Reverend Hale and Reverend Parris. Both McCarthyism and the Salem Witch Trials in the Crucible had different ways of presenting fear. McCarthyism involved fear that was created by Senator McCarthy and the Crucible involved fear from the witches framing other townsfolk.

The Crucible was written in the time of McCarthyism and was an allegory to illustrate what paranoia can do to people. Many of the characters in The Crucible resemble people during McCarthyism. Abigail could symbolize McCarthy. Both Abigail and McCarthy initiated the chaos and the rumors in their respective events. Throughout The Crucible, Abigail would accuse other people that she would either not like or other people that could seem like they were witches, “I saw Goody Sibber with the Devil… I saw Goody Hawkins with the Devil… I saw Goody Booth with the Devil” (Miller 45-46)! Joseph McCarthy spread the idea that communists had invaded society and he would accuse people with little to no evidence. The townspeople of The Crucible represented average Americans or government officials during McCarthyism. The townspeople in The Crucible were not willing to stand up for themselves or others for fear of being accused of being a witch. The media during McCarthyism would not dare to publish anything about McCarthy in fear of being accused of seeming communist or having unamerican characteristics. People accused of being a witch would have to give up the names of other witches to be saved in the eyes of God, “Who came with you with the Devil… Who? Who? Their names, their names” (Miller 44)! If they denied being a witch or refused to divulge any names they would be hanged. During McCarthyism, if someone was suspected of being a communist sympathizer they would be assumed guilty even if there was no evidence against them. The character of Judge Hawthorne in the Crucible symbolized the court system of the McCarthy era. Judge Hawthorne would only believe the accuser and would often disregard the defendants’ claims. The characters in The Crucible highly resemble many people during McCarthyism, from McCarthy himself to average Americans.

The Crucible was written during the time of McCarthyism by Arthur Miller. Miller was researching the town of Salem, and the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. While Miller researched the Salem Witch Trials, he noticed similarities between how people were acting and how punishments were dealt with in Salem and how McCarthy was spreading McCarthyism. McCarthyism was a political agenda spread by Joseph McCarthy about the Russian’s infiltrating society. Anyone who was caught being suspicious of acting unamerican or communist was assumed guilty on the spot. Miller understood writing about how he believed McCarthyism to be flawed and unjust would immediately get him blacklisted from future jobs and that he would be named as a communist sympathizer. As a way to express his opinions and to expose the wrongdoings of McCarthyism, Miller wrote The Crucible as an allegory to McCarthyism. Miller kept most of the details the same in The Crucible, but it still showed that a similar situation had happened in the past. This time instead of a witch hunt it was a communist hunt. Miller eventually got blacklisted for writing The Crucible, but he did not have trouble producing the play. The play was first performed in 1953. Miller wrote The Crucible during McCarthyism to wake people up about what was happening around them and to show an example of a similar situation happening in the past.

Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible during the time of McCarthyism. He noticed the similarities to what was happening in his research of the town of Salem and what was happening around him. He wrote The Crucible as an allegory of McCarthyism to expose the truth about how people will jump to conclusions, throw other people under the bus, and lie to get out of trouble based on evidence found in the time of McCarthyism while also showing key differences based on the time period difference and comparing the characters to real-life people.


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