The Crucible booknotes

This essay The Crucible booknotes has a total of 7940 words and 34 pages.

The Crucible booknotes



BARRON\'S BOOK NOTES
ARTHUR MILLER\'S
THE CRUCIBLE

^^^^^^^^^^ARTHUR MILLER: THE AUTHOR AND HIS TIMES

In Salem, Massachusetts, a dozen teen-age girls and a black slave woman are caught dancing in the woods around a bubbling cauldron. Today, you wouldn\'t even use the word "caught." You might think these girls were strange, but you\'d hardly call the cops on them. But it\'s 1692, and Salem isn\'t just an ordinary small town; it\'s a religious community of the strictest kind. The people and their laws are as harsh as the Massachusetts winter. When two of the girls pass out from fright and can\'t be revived, the others find themselves in serious trouble. Women who dance with the Devil are witches; and witches, when they are caught, are hanged. To get themselves out of their predicament, the girls try to spread the blame around. But the blame-spreading gets out of hand, and before long the whole town is in a panic, everyone accusing everyone else of witchcraft. Nineteen people will be hanged before the madness is stopped.

Well, you say, people were superstitious then. Nothing like that could happen today. Maybe so, but in the early 1950s, at the time The Crucible was written, a similar kind of hunt was taking place, not for witches, but for Communists. Today it bears the harmless-sounding name of the McCarthy Hearings on Un-American Activities, but for the people who got caught up in it--some of them our parents and grandparents--this "witch-hunt" was anything but harmless. in fact, to the playwright Arthur Miller, the McCarthy Hearings bore an alarming resemblance to the trials in Salem in 1692. The Crucible was his way of trying to keep history from repeating itself.

One of the most popular TV shows in 1953 was "I Led Three Lives." It always began the same way: A man\'s face appears on the screen. His expression is taut with anxiety. The narrator says something like, "This is the fantastically true story of Herbert A. Philbrick, who for nine frightening years did lead three lives--average citizen, member of the Communist Party, and counterspy for the FBI. For obvious reasons, the names, dates and places have been changed, but the story is based on fact." The show was scary and exciting, but it always left you worried, because Philbrick\'s job never seemed to be done. Communist spies were everywhere, and one man could do only so much against so many.

There was a lot of talk in those days about the "Red Menace." Red is the color of the Russian flag, and all Russians are Communists. So to say "Better dead than red" meant that you\'d kill yourself before you let the Communists take over. The slogan was repeated over and over throughout America. My father said it; my teachers said it; I\'m sure I said it myself, even though I was just five years old at the time.

And in fact there were good reasons to be worried about the Russians. They had the atomic bomb, as we did. But a lot of people said they got the bomb by using spies, and that really made us worry. It was charged that secret agents, working under cover, had stolen our secrets and given them to the Enemy. Even worse, these spies supposedly were hardly ever Russians themselves, but often American citizens, as normal as you or me, the kind of people you see every day on the street and hardly even notice. Blacks are identifiable by their skin color, foreigners speak with an unusual accent. But a Communist could be anybody. It sort of makes a Communist sound like the bogey-man, doesn\'t it? Well, to many people in 1953, a Communist was just as scary as the bogey-man, and a lot more real.

Soon after it was discovered that the Russians had the bomb, the U.S. Congress started investigations into so-called Un-American Activities, and one of the men they put in charge was Joseph R. McCarthy, a senator from Wisconsin. McCarthy claimed America was in great danger from a Communist conspiracy to take over the world. And, as if he were a surgeon hacking away tumors in a body riddled with cancer, he tried to root out every trace of Communism he could find. It soon became clear that very few people were completely

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Topics Related to The Crucible booknotes

Salem witch trials, Communism in the United States, McCarthyism, American people of German descent, Joseph McCarthy, The Crucible, ArmyMcCarthy hearings, Communist Party USA, Crucible, Arthur Miller, Draft:A View from the Bridge and McCarthyism

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