Crucible Tale Of Trials

A political cartoon shows a massive stone wall surrounding tall office buildings
which bear labels of "Department of Energy," "Defense

Department," "National Security Agency," "CIA," and
"FBI." Outside the wall, which is tagged "Government

Secrecy," a couple huddles in a roofless hut called "Personal

Non-Privacy." At the top of the cartoon is printed "Somehow I feel
this is not the way the founders planned it." Indeed, America's founding
fathers most likely did not plan for the United States to be governed in such a
manner that the people of its democracy would feel debunked. How, then, did the

United States since its founding in 1776 come to this feeling of exposure? Such
an expansive question does not possess only one answer, of course. Multiple
factors have caused United States citizens to feel the "personal
non-privacy" Washington Post cartoonist Herblock depicts. Throughout

American history the government has taken advantage of its ability to control;
and, often led by an incendiary, people have been brought forth and laid bare in
front of turbulent crowds. One of the first instances of this public inquest
occurred in 1692 during the Salem witch trials, and then the probing happened
again in the 1950s during the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC)
trials. Hysteria gripped the small colony of Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 as
adolescent girls cried out that they saw Satan talking to some of the colonists.

These accused were then put on trial and made to either confess and name others
who were associating with the Devil, or the accused who did not confess to
working with the Devil were convicted, imprisoned and, not infrequently, killed.

Ultimately, the governor of Massachusetts intervened and put an end to the witch
trials, but not before fourteen women and five men hung as witches in Salem
("Witch Hunt Hysteria"). A similar excitement occurred again in the

1950s. Throughout the decade the United States faced the Red Scare, which
included a hunt for Communists led by Republican Wisconsin Senator Joseph R.

McCarthy. The long, bloody battles of World War II were finally in the past, but
a new war had begun (Chun). The Cold War between the United States and the

United Soviet Social Republic commenced because of land rivalry, then continued
with the United States claiming that the U.S.S. R. had communist groups working
in other countries with an plan for world control (Chun). President Truman
released his doctrine stating the United States' intentions of battling
communism throughout the world, and in 1947 he authorized a program to
investigate the loyalty of federal employees. Senator McCarthy then decided to
lead his own anti-communist group to ensure privacy in the State Department and
other offices. What began as moderate concern developed into frenzied excitement
as Congress restricted the civil rights of communists, and many suspected
communists were questioned and later blacklisted. During the Red Scare,

Constitutional rights were often compromised, and the government turned
secretive. Journalist Athan G. Theoharis said of the increasing governmental
concealment and censorship, "Recently released FBI files revealed a more
serious threat to political liberties-the freedom of authors to publish'dangerous' thoughts-stemmed from the often covert, behind-the-scenes efforts of
conservative academics, members of Congress, and FBI and Justice Department
officials." The maintenance of personal privacy and public government began
fracturing before the United States government was even ratified, and continues
even today to cause debate and dissent. While there have been numerous episodes
of governmental concealment and public exposure, the Salem witch trials and the

HUAC trials are two of the more predominant. In the heat of the Red Scare and
rampant McCarthyism of 1953, playwright Arthur Miller-who in 1956 appeared
before the HUAC and was later held in contempt of Congress-published his play

The Crucible. A work centering on the effects of the Salem witch trials in 1692,
the play is often associated with the HUAC trials of the 1950s. While Miller
somewhat denies these correlations, he speaks of the lack of "plays that
reflect the soul-racking, deeply unseating questions that are being inwardly
asked on the street, in the living room, and on the subways" in a New York

Times article published just months before The Crucible appeared. In the same
article Miller says, "Is the knuckleheadedness of McCarthyism behind it
all? The Congressional investigations of political unorthodoxy? Yes." The

Crucible, whether meant to incite public support against McCarthyism or simply
portray the events of the Salem witch trials, indeed shows undertones of the
events surrounding Miller and other suspected communists in the 1950s. However,
the play does more than just reiterate the current events of the time it was
published. The political cartoon aforementioned was not published during