McCarthyism in The Crucible








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 Women’s 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 resemblance’s to that of the Salem community in 1692 (Carey 51). In Arthur Miller’s 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 ju!
stice.
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 didn’t 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