The Witch Hunt in The Crucible and During the Time of McCarthyism

The Witch Hunt in The Crucible and During the Time of McCarthyism

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The Crucible was written by Arthur Miller during an era known as McCarthyism. McCarthyism was a search, or “witch hunt”, led by Senator Joe McCarthy, for Communists in the United States Government during the nineteen-fifties. This “witch hunt” indirectly shed light upon “...one of the strangest and most awful chapters in human history”: The Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692. The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, is a drama of the true story which took place during the seventeenth century.

In The Crucible, the events flow naturally from one event to the next. Everything occurs naturally from the mood of the characters. This story is not contrived, but is based on a true story. This story takes place in Salem, Massachusetts in the late sixteen-hundreds. The characters of the story were superstitious and gullible, which allowed for the mass hysteria taken place. The incident begins with the girls dancing in the forest, which in turn, generates a witch hunt. The conflict was sufficient enough to keep interest aroused. There were tension and suspense in the story, covering basic human instincts and qualities. The story shows the human necessity for survival, and the lengths which one will go to save his life.

The play opens in a scene of chaos; Betty Parris, daughter of Reverend Parris, has slipped into what is now known as a coma. When Betty does not awaken, the townspeople immediately turn to witchcraft as the concern. Jealousy, caused by theocracy of the times, causes many of the people to accuse others of witchcraft. Debates over property lines occur; neighbors are at each others’ throats. Centering now upon John Proctor, and his wife, Elizabeth, the story takes a turn. Elizabeth is accused by Abigail Williams of witchcraft. When Elizabeth is standing trial, Abigail now accuses John of the same crime; he is now to stand trial, also. At the story’s end, John is hanged, and it becomes apparent to the town of Salem that there is no such thing as witchcraft. As a result of these occurrences, theocracy came to an end in Salem.

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The ending to the play symbolizes the struggle evident throughout. The Crucible goes a long way to help understand the tragedies which occurred in Salem, as well as the tragedy during the nineteen-fifties. Millers’ style of writing is very simple. He uses simple sentences and words to make the reading easier to understand. The dialogue is effective in sounding like actual speech. Miller created images throughout the
story which are hard to forget.

The Crucible has had over 500 performances, around the world. The play is an engaging and timeless drama, with continued popularity not only in the United States, but all over the world. Miller centers on social concerns throughout the world. He expresses the human necessity for survival, and the lengths one will go to save his life. The Crucible parallels with the people of Salem, Washington, or even Nazi Germany. In each of these examples, vengeance turned neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother, and husband against wife. With the understanding and analysis of these crises’, others in the future can be prevented. Miller expresses the significance of mass hysteria in a society, and the frame of reference people held. The universal theme expressed in The Crucible deals with the intolerance of society. Because we, the people, are so intolerant to others who appear differently, we begin to become prejudiced against these people. Prejudiced, in great numbers, will in turn lead to mass hysteria, as shown in The Crucible.

The Crucible is “a play of enormous strength and intelligence”-John McCain, New York Journal-American. This story reflects the suffering during human history. It reminds us that man is not perfect, and that we do make mistakes. These sufferings we undergo, become to us, like a crucible. The mass hysteria endured during the sixteen-hundreds, as well as the mass hysteria during the nineteen-hundreds, should guide us towards good judgement in the future. Hopefully, man can turn away from petty issues such as these, and not take the lives of the innocent.
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