The Crucible was based in 1692 in and around the town of Salem, Massachusetts, USA. The Salem witch-hunt was view as one of the strangest and most horrendous chapters in the human history. People that were prosecuted were all innocent and their deaths were all due to false accusation of people’s ridiculous belief in superstition and their paranoia.
The Puritans in those times were very strict in personal habits and morality; swearing, drunkenness and gambling would be punished. The people of Salem believed in the devil and thought that witchcraft should be hunted out. The play can be seen as a eneral statement on the effects that fear and fanaticism can have on human beings and how one person can cause such catastrophe. It is a purely a controversial play, so why write a play knowing the danger you were putting yourself in? Arthur Miller wrote the play because he was accused of being a communist; Miller attended meetings between communist writers. He was fined and given a suspended prison sentence.Order now
When he wrote the play, he focused on a series of true events, which took place in and around the town of Salem. As Miller saw what was happening around him at the time, he realised that e himself could not take any direct action, or speak out against the act of McCarthyism because he could put himself in danger. He did, however, realise that he could make other Americans see how they were acting towards each other and how paranoia were the main cause to this widespread hysteria.
Realising that he has to prevent this hysteria from developing further was to write a play, in hope that the audience would see what the hidden meaning and message he was trying to portray, instead of being ‘just a play’. Many things in history can relate in different aspects. The comparison of the Salem Witch trials nd McCarthyism are examples of things in history that show similarities. Looking at the two historical events, we can see that hysteria was ever-present at the times in which they occurred. It is evident that this hysteria ruined the lives of many people, due to the constant accusations of witches and communists.
The events that led up to the Salem witch trails and McCarthyism was also similar. Both events were irrational fears that witchcraft and communism were going to change the face of society if drastic measures were not taken. People were involved in persecution in both time framed. In Salem, it as the witches who were hunted. With McCarthyism, it was the communists that were hunted. As in America in the 1950s (their assumption being that communists were out there), in The Crucible the villagers of Salem believed that the devil was out there.
The people really believed that Lucifer was roaming the streets of Salem seeking to destroy the town and seeking to destroy the institution of the church. In many ways the assumption of devil activity seemed to be a way of finding a scapegoat for the personal problems of the community. So ‘The Crucible’ is a subtle way to show what was happening in America at the time without actually relating to that time. In Salem the accused are the communists and the accusers are McCarthyists.
So John Proctor the hero of Arthur Millers story is the equivalent of a suspected communist in the USA at the time of the cold war. This shows a great resemblance of the American history, which Miller was obviously trying to portray. The character of John Proctor can also be linked closely Arthur Miller himself, both individuals stood up for what they believed in and got punished for doing so. This could be one the reason why Miller chose Proctor as one of the main character.
Humans as a race do not seem to learn from their mistakes, for if they did, World War II would not have occurred. This, for Miller, turned out to be to his advantage, as he managed to find a similarity with 1950’s America and 1692, Salem. The Americans were devoted to their democratic government and their how their lives were run so communism was a real threat to the livelihood of the American people. A group of anti-communist battle began and it was led by an America politician called Joseph Raymond McCarthy.
The reason to why Miller used the idea of witchcraft instead of McCarthyism is obvious; because had he said irectly that he did not agree with the actions being taken, he would have been taken to court. Society did not accept any criticism towards ways in which things were run at the time. Although many Americans stood back and live their lives the way they were told to, Miller in the other hand felt that things couldn’t carry on the way it is. The Salem witch trials and McCarthyism have similar beginnings and similar results.
Such hysteria came about because of the excessive suspicion that was planted in the people’s minds, by Parris and McCarthy. Despite this, it was Parris and McCarthy who primarily rise he hysteria that occurred. Such hysteria may occur today, dealing with the issue on terrorism. Racial profiling and accusations may be prominent in our country once again! If the right events and the right people trigger such a scare, our country could be in a state of mass hysteria as it was two times already.
Despite the age of The Crucible there are many issues included in it that are still very relevant in the modern world to day. Due to Miller’s clever plot and distinctive techniques, he was able to bring the history to life. This play turned out to be one of the most relevant plays of the past and of today.