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Comparing The Crucible and The Scarlet Letter Two American authors, of two distinctly different time periods had one very similar task, to turn a piece of American History into a believable tragedy. Arthur Miller with The Crucible and Nathaniel Hawthorne with The Scarlet Letter. Perhaps one might wonder which author did a better job in doing so, but with such different pieces of work, this is hardly a question that can be answered. Miller's the Crucible was written in the nineteen-fifties, with a definite purpose, to remind Americans of the horrible witch trials that took place in Salem, even before the American Revolution was a thought. It served as a tool to warn against the same thing happening with the Communist hearings going on in our country at the time it was written.
The Crucible by Arthur Miller The Crucible is a fictional retelling of events in American history surrounding the Salem witch trials of the seventeenth century, yet is as much a product of the time in which Arthur Miller wrote it, the early 1950s, as it is description of Puritan society. At that particular time in the 1950s, when Arthur Miller wrote the play the American Senator McCarthy who chaired the ‘House Un-American Activities Committee’ was very conscious of communism and feared its influence in America. It stopped authors’ writings being published in fear of them being socialist sympathisers. Miller was fascinated by the Salem Witch Trials and that human beings were capable of such madness. In the 1950s the audience would have seen the play as a parallel between the McCarthy trials and the Salem Trials.
When Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible in 1953, America was in a state of unrest. Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee were spreading fear and hysteria with their Communist “witch hunts.” Miller wanted to address the subject in a way that would not blatantly denounce the hearings, and with his previous knowledge of the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692, he created an allegory, and The Crucible was born. By examining the universality of the theme of the play and its tragic elements, it will be apparent that The Crucible is Arthur Miller’s greatest achievement. The Crucible was not as instantly successful as Death of a Salesman because “its merits were at first overshadowed by the notoriety of its most obvious theme. The Salem witch trials of 1692, was distractingly applicable to what has been called the witch hunts of the 1950’s” (American Writers 156).
Contrast Between Abigail Williams and Elizabeth Proctor Create an outright contrast between the two protagonists – Abigail Williams and Elizabeth Proctor. Examine how he has established this dichotomy of character, and what does it add to the dramatic quality and audience involvement in the play. The “Crucible” By Arthur Miller Miller attempts to create an outright contrast between the two protagonists – Abigail Williams and Elizabeth Proctor. Examine how he has established this dichotomy of character, and what does it add to the dramatic quality and audience involvement in the play. On the face of the play (“The Crucible”) it seems to be simply about the mass hysteria which led to the 1692 Salem Witchcraft trials, which talks about a handful of issues which are somewhat remote to a modern audience, who in turn find it relatively intricate to relate to such happenings.
Arthur Miller, the author of The Crucible, lived during the Red Scare, which was anti-Communist as the Salem witch trials were anti-witches. The whole book is a symbol of two events that happened in history. The Red Scare and McCarthyism both serve as symbols of the Salem witch trials, which makes it an allegory. Although the play is based off of the witch trials during seventeenth century New England, the author meant for it to address his concern for the Red Scare in an indirect way. For example, just like the witch trials accusing people of witchcraft, Americans during the Red Scare accused others of being pro-Communist.
The main idea of manipulation and a person’s agenda masked with false hysteria was fully represented by the character Abigail who decided to accuse John Proctor’s wife The Crucible by Arthur Miller was then created to emphasize this idea and to use the witch trials to mock the public of its irrationality and hysteria during the Red Scare. In other words, Miller use The Crucible as an allegory of McCarthyism for the United States after it blacklisted and accused multiple communists. With its publication, reason fell back through in the majority of society’s ideals. The term ‘witch’ was finally regarded as both evil and good. However, in more primitive societies, people are still being accused of witchcraft for the very same reason people were being persecuted years ago.
Miller takes the Salem Witch trials and uses them to reflect on the McCarthyism period. By using religion as a sort of substitute for politics, Miller was able to see the similarities between the McCarthy era and the actions of the Puritans in Salem. Each event was just as cruel and merciless as the other, and even though the Salem Witch trials had occurred over 200 years before The Crucible was written, by using it to mirror the McCarthy era, the spirit of persecution was re-awoken. Just as McCarthy considered everything “Un-American” to be Communist, the Puritans in The Crucible thought everything un-explainable to be the work of the devil, and in both cases, the authorities demanded conformity. In The Crucible people were put on trial and killed when they did something “un-explainable”.
Is it possible for history to repeat itself? This seems like an unlikely concept, but it is not as far-fetched as it may seem. There have been many times throughout history that things have seemingly repeated themselves. One of the best examples of this is the Salem Witch Trials in the 1690’s being repeated in the form of the Red Scare of the 1950’s. The Red Scare is reminiscent of the Salem Witch Trials in that people were accused of doing something they did not do, they were only given the choices of condemn or confess, and more harm was done than avoided as a result of the scares.
Witchcraft in Salem In the past, the word Salem has always been somewhat synonymous with the infamous witch trials. Thanks to works such as Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”, many people find it hard not to envision a community torn apart by chaos, even though Miller’s play was not so much about the witch trials but instead a commentary on the rampant McCarthyism going on at the time he wrote it. Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, however, see a very different picture when the Salem witch trials are mentioned. Rather than overlook the “ordinary” people living in the towns in which they write about (in the case of Salem Possessed, the town of Salem, Massachusetts), they instead take the instance of the witch trials of 1692 and springboard from them into a detailed inquisition into the entire history of the small village of Salem; or, in their own words, Boyer and Nissenbaum have “exploited the focal events of 1692 somewhat as a stranger might make use of a lightning flash in the night: better to observe the contours of the landscape which it chances to illuminate” (xii). That is to say, the authors strive to show how the witch trials were not simply a completely spontaneous event, but rather a long, horrible process by which individuals were singled out, tried, and executed in order to vent emotions of hostility towards change.