Literature as a Vehicle for Social Criticism Essay

Literature as a Vehicle for Social Criticism Essay

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With the dramatization of the historical subject of the Salem Witch trials, Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible (1953) presents an allegory for the McCarthy era. The Salem Witch trials took place in Massachusetts (1692) and were based on a series of hearing and prosecutions of people that were accused of witchcraft. The play speaks to those who have lived under a repressing regime or a society where people questioned opinions, leading to executions and punishments. After the end of World War II, during the McCarthy era, the Americans embraced the same ideology as in 1692, and began a series of assaults on those who held Communist beliefs. Although McCarthy’s witch-hunt didn’t require execution, many suffered irreparable damage to their lives, even more so to their reputation. Miller, in a clever manner, is able to emphasize that aspect in his play. Furthermore, he satirizes the current Puritan education system and encapsulates the mass hysteria, an element, which one could apply to the McCarthy era. Finally, he encompasses the wide popularity of spreading rumors, which resulted in accusations.

One of the aspects that Miller satirized was the Puritan education system and the skewed beliefs that people adopted out of fear of the unknown. The portrayal of women and the education introduce the audience to the limitations in beliefs of the time. Reverend Hale is introduced as an intellectually high ranked specialist. During Miller’s description of Hale in Act I, the audience encounters sarcastic tones in his manner of introduction. He states, “…almost all men of learning, (Hale) spent a good deal of his time pondering the invisible world…” (31). Miller satirizes Hale, who is reputed to have experience in witchcraft. He arrives naïve an...


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...t Sarah Good. She was one the fist women who was charged with witchcraft. She always mumbled and talked under her breath. Due to the paranoia in town, people developed gossip about Sarah Good, which resulted in wild accusations and execution. These gossips also replace the blame from one person to the other, the Putnams claim that their children died of evil spirits as Mrs. Putnam claims that she has “laid seven babies unbaptized in the earth” (Act I, 14), however, this is an easy escape. Instead of taking the responsibility and blame for her children’s deaths, she accuses witchery to compensate for her loss.


Arthur Miller’s The Crucible serves as an allegory to the McCarthy era in the US, as a basis to satirize and criticize the Puritan society. Miller focuses on the role of women and education, mass hysteria and the spread of rumors of which accusations result.

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