McCarthyism

In The Crucible

In The Crucible, written by Arthur Miller, the madness of the Salem witch trials
is explored in great detail. There is more to the play than the witch trials,
though. The Crucible was composed during a time when a similar hysteria was
sweeping through America. A virtually unkown senator by the name of Joseph

McCarthy was propelled into infamy when while at a speaking engagement at thee

Republican Womenís Club of Wheeling, West Virginia he charged 205 persons in
the U.S. State Department of being members of the Communist Party (Martine 8).

Fear caused the American people to succumb to the preposterous charges brought
forth by McCarthy displaying resemblanceís to that of the Salem community in

1692 (Carey 51). In Arthur Millerís play The Crucible, there is evidence of
parallels between the Salem of 1692 and America of the 1950\'s, the American

Government of the 1950\'s and its misuse of power, and the high court depicted in
the play, using its power to impose a misguided justice. The Crucible takes
place in Salem, Massachusetts in the spring of 1692 in a village shrouded with
chaos. The people of Salem were in uncertain times. Just a year earlier a witch
in the nearby town of Beverly was executed and now the witch hysteria had spread
to their village. Confused, the people didnít know who to blame whether it be
the girls, the negro slave, or even the Devil himself. The insanity that came
about was an indication of the fear of "individual freedom" (Miller

6). In The Crucible, hysteria and hidden agendas break down the social structure
and then everyone must protect themselves from the people that they thought were
their friends. The church, the legal system, and the togetherness of the
community died so that the girls and their families social status might be
protected. The fact that Salem was a Puritan community did not help matters
either. Puritans were a strict religous group that tolerated no devious
behavior. Being isolated from any other group of people with different beliefs
created a church led Puritan society that was not able to accept a lot of
change. Anyone who was not in good standing with the church was not even allowed
in the community (Carey 42). They believed God elected those who were to go to

Heaven by the same token though they believed the Devil could choose his
disciples also (Carey 43). Puritans deemed anything pleasurable was motivated by
and came directly from the Devil. When The Crucible was written, the American
society was threatened by communism much like Salem was threatened by witchcraft
(Bly 32). On September 23, 1949, President Truman reported that the Soviet Union
had developed an atomic bomb striking fear into the American nation (Martine 8).

Miller even acknowledged this fear when he said, " America had just
finished fighting World War II with the help of the Soviet Union against the

Germans and now they felt threatened by them, knowing not wether they were still
allies or if another war was inevitable. The war made people wary of communism.

What Hitler had done was ugly. Americans feared this ugliness. "Thou shalt
not suffer a witch to live" (Exodus 22:18). The puritans of Salem
definitely believed in witches and gaurded against them just as the Bible told
them so, executing them. Once a person was accused as a witch the only way to
live was to turn back to God by repenting and revealing names of other witches
so that they might repent or be vanquished (Bly 88). Judge Danforth was devoted
to the prosecution of witches. When he arrives in the town of Salem, Danforth
sets in motion acts that "bring about an evil destructive state of
chaos" (Carey 15). He believed he inherited his authority directly from

God, and therefore carried on the witchhunt mercilessly (Bly 33). He did not
give up easily; once he decided someone was a witch he would not rest until a
confession was made as is evident in the following quote: "Will you
confesss yourself befouled with Hell, or do you keep that black allegiance
yet?" (Miller 111). Danforth may have had too much power also; being the

Deputy Governor of Massachusetts, Danforth had the power to try, convict, and
execute anyone he decide was a witch" (Bly 27). When writting The Crucible,

Arthur Miller chose to speak through John Proctor on of the Salem witch trials
victims. Miller uses Proctor as his character that defies the authority of the
judges and their corrupt power (Carey 14). Miller also uses Proctor as his hero
which critic James J. Martine