“The Crucible”by Arthur Miller THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS AND MCCARTHYISM
The Crucible is an example of historical fiction.The main plot of the play and many of the characters are based on a true event from history, although much of the dialogue and some of the action was created by the author and fictionalized.In order to fully understand the play and its themes, it is important to have a bit of background knowledge about two events from American history:the Salem Witch Trials and the time of McCarthyism.
The Salem Witch TrialsIn 1692, in the town of Salem, Massachusetts, a young girl became ill.Doctors couldnt determine a physical reason for her symptoms, so eventually, it was suggested that perhaps this girl was under the influence of witchcraft.
Since most people in the town of Salem were Puritans who took their religion very seriously, this was a terrifying thought.Who could possibly be practicing witchcraft and casting spells on this girl? It was very important that this evil person (or people) be found and punished by death by hanging.
Well-known reverends were brought in to question the people of the town.When suspicions were raised regarding certain citizens, these people realized that by pointing fingers at their neighbors, they could deflect the attention of the court and save themselves.By the time the trials finally ended, 25 people were killed as witches. http:///www.salemweb.com/memorial
McCarthyism & the “Red Scare”After World War II ended, many people in the United States were worried about the possibility of Communists taking control of America.In order to attempt to prevent this from happening, the "House Committee on Un-American Activities" began investigating people that they thought might have Communist leanings.In 1950, Senator Joseph McCarthy began a campaign to try to identify and get rid of communist sympathizers in the government.Understanding McCarthyism http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyBiSk97Hag
Similar to the events that took place in Salem in the 1690s, the American people were truly afraid of communists infiltrating and overthrowing the government.People began naming names, pointing fingers, and accusing each other of "suspicious" activities.Many people lost their jobs and had their reputations ruined because of these accusations.
Although politicians were among the first to be investigated, entertainers were also commonly accused.Many actors, directors, producers, and writers found themselves blacklisted and unable to find work because of the "Red Scare;" no one wanted to associate with someone who might be a communist.Arthur Miller was one of these blacklisted writers.
While it wouldnt have been a good idea for Miller to write a play depicting Senator McCarthy, the House Committee on Un-American Activities, or any of the other things that were happening in the 1950s, he noticed many similarities between these events and hysteria-driven witch trials of Salem.This led to the writing of his play, The Crucible.The Hollywood Blacklist: 1947-1960 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJzV6- wJ3SQ&feature=related