Arthur Miller's The Crucible: An Attack on McCarthyism? Essay

Arthur Miller's The Crucible: An Attack on McCarthyism? Essay

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In 1692, a group of girls living in Salem Massachusetts fell ill. Suffering from seizures and hallucinations, in extremely religious Puritan New England, the only cause seemed to be the work of the devil or his servants. The sickness ignited fears of witchcraft, and it was only a matter of time until not only the girls, but many other residents of Salem, started accusing other villagers of conspiring with the devil, and casting dark magic. By the August of 1962, nineteen people were executed by the Massachusetts government and judicial system, who were heavily influenced by religion. This series of events later became known as The Salem Witch Trials. In early 1950 Arthur Miller, who became a national sensation with Death of a Salesman, composed The Crucible, which draws directly from the witch-hunt of 1692. Running parallel to this was the rise of Senator McCarthy whose venomous anti-Communist views and accusations pushed the United States into a theatrical and sensitive anti-red state during the first edgy years of the Cold War.
At the time of The Crucible ‘s first performance, 1953, many observed it as a direct attack on McCarthyism, the policy of sniffing out Communists similar to the way the “witches” of 1692 were discovered. The favorite targets on McCarthy’s radar were writers and entertainers. Through highly controversial, evidence-lacking investigations, intended to root out Communist sympathizers in the United States, suspected parties were told that if they wanted to escape punishment, they would have to confess and identify other Communist sympathizers. This structure lead to an overflow of accusations, heightening the hysteria, and the black listing of three hundred and twenty promising careers . There are many sit...

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...n tell, no actual witches or devil-worshipers in Salem, and there were definitely some Communist spies, including the Julius Rosenberg, and Alger Hiss. These lionized victims of McCarthyism at the time proved to be less innocent than those of the Salem Witch Trials, like Rebecca Nurse or John Proctor.
Miller was not interested in the assent of one man and his calculated and dramatic attacks on an idea, but rather the American people themselves. They began to revel in the fear, which was being used to rule their minds, making them abandon the virtues of loyalty and honesty. This key theme does not only apply to the narrow scope of McCarthyism, and is what makes The Crucible a prime example of well-written American drama.

1. Bowers, Kristen. The Crucible by Arthur Miller: Literature Guide. San Dimas, CA: Secondary Solutions, 2006. Print.

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