The Crucible By Arthur Miller Essay

The Crucible By Arthur Miller Essay

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Although The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, is set in the small town of Salem, Massachusetts during the seventeenth-century, its intention is to provide insight to the events occurring during Miller’s own time. In 1947, Alger Hiss, a State Department official, was accused of espionage, increasing the fears of the communist party among the public. Additionally, in 1949, the Soviet Union exploded its first atomic bomb and China recently became a communist nation. Furthermore, Joseph Stalin controlled half of Europe, and the threat of an atomic war was ever-present. In 1950, three years before the play was first produced, Senator Joseph McCarthy launched a mass epidemic of hysteria throughout the country by publicly accusing 205 Department of State workers of being associated with the communist party (Ushistory.com). Already in a state of paranoia, with the cold war glooming over them, the nation took his words with vigor which resulted in the modern equivalent of the Salem witch-hunts.
Without the context of the McCarthy era, James Martine suggests, in his literary criticism, “The Metaphorical Use of The Crucible”, that, “The Crucible might have perished in the 1950s or become a historical oddity of interest only to historians of New England and people curious about witchcraft” (67). The play is able remain relevant today because it provides a compelling allegory to the modern world. Through The Crucible, Miller parallels the tragedy that took place during the Salem Witch Trials with the equally terrifying happenings that resulted under the leadership of McCarthy.
Although it is possible that Miller is trying to represent McCarthy through the characters of Parris, Danforth, or Hathorne – because they are active in the courts and accu...


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...ves in the spectral evidence even though it is not entirely accurate.
Though these examples clearly show the parallels between the two different witch-hunts, in is important not to over-exaggerate them. Popkin highlights these limitations by stating that though witches never existed, communism does. He also states that it shows the different psychological states of the victims of the Salem trials versus the McCarthy trials. And while both people suffered immensely in both situations, and it is unfair to compare the two tragedies together by deciding which one is worse, it is important to understand that 1950’s witch-hunt is more akin to modern times and therefore potentially more useful to reflect upon. Nonetheless, The Crucible offers an outsider 's perspective on the situation in both the Salem witch trials and indirectly the McCarthy trials which Miller intended.

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