The events shown in The Crucible by Arthur Miller may seem extreme and unrealistic in modern society, but the anti-communist campaign led by Joseph McCarthy in 1950s America proves that persecution of differing ideas is still a reality in modern America. The repetition of this theme shows that history does indeed repeat itself, which Miller shows in his political allegory, The Crucible. An allegory is a piece of literature that represents events which have actually occurred with fictional characters and stories. Miller uses The Crucible to highlight the irrational fear that people have about differing or unknown ideas by indirectly comparing the Salem Witch Trials of the 1600s to 1950s America.
The intolerance of ideas which differ from the social norm is a recurring theme that displays itself in both 1950s America and 1600s Salem. The government of Salem could be considered a theocracy, as they used the rules of their religion as the laws that formed their society. People who went against the social norm and did not identify themselves as a member of the Church were charged as enemies of the Church. When Reverend Hale came to question John Proctor for p, he questioned his faith and tested his knowledge of the testaments to confirm that he stood beside the Church. Those who did not stand beside the Church in all matters were considered against the Church, which was illegal in Salem. People were guided by law to turn in their friends and family, or they too would be charged with witchcraft.“She made me drink blood!---I saw Goody Booth with the Devil!” (Miller, 43-48) Guided by only faith and word of mouth, 20 people were charged and killed upon suspicion of witchcraft. The same phenomenon appeared in 1950s America when the United States was just in the beginning of the Cold War. Many Americans viewed the rise of Communism in Western Europe as a direct threat to their values and way of life and as something that must be stopped at all costs. The American government encouraged Americans to report any signs of communist behavior. As a result of this, thousands of people were questioned for their values and beliefs upon suspicion of association to Communism with absolutely no proof. The fact that people were tried and charged with no evidence in both of these situations signifies strong corruption in the justice system. Even after causing the death of 20 innocent people in Salem, Abigail was allowed to live despite being guilty herself. Joseph McCarthy blindly accused 205 government officials in the State Department and remained in power for 7 years after making the accusations. The hysteria caused by both Abigail’s and McCarthy’s accusations caused a massive witch-hunt for witches and communists respectively.
Several of the characters and ideas in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible closely parallel reality in 1950s America. Abigail, the girl who started the entire situation when she accused 20 people of association with witchcraft is Miller’s representation of Senator McCarthy, the father of McCarthyism in the 1950s. Both Abigail and McCarthy exploited the beliefs of the public for their own personal gain. Abigail shows this in The Crucible by her relentless attempts to get John Proctor to fall in love with her, and McCarthy with his desire for political power. Additionally, the girls and women accused of witchcraft in Salem represent those accused of association with communism, who were also encouraged to turn in their friends to escape punishment. In addition to those who were already accused, the townspeople in Salem were also commanded to turn in anybody who they suspected of witchcraft,which is especially notable when Giles Corey turns in his own wife on suspicion of reading “strange books” (Miller, 40). The townspeople in Salem are Miller’s interpretation of the American people during the Cold War. Official publications by the United States government, such as How To Spot A Communist, an anti-communist propaganda video distributed by the United States Armed Forces encouraged the American people to report anyone that showed any signs of communism to the government. John Proctor, a landowner who lived in Salem and was accused of witchcraft had his name ruined by false accusations and lies. “ I have given you my soul; leave me my name” (Miller, 143) The theme of the destruction of public image of those accused relates directly to thousands of Americans in the entertainment industry whose names ruined and were blacklisted from the film industry due to alleged “communist” ties. Strong parallels exist between characters in The Crucible and reality in 1950s America, and it’s clear that Miller wrote The Crucible with the intention of highlighting
After indirectly calling out the American government for attacking specific ideas in his political allegory, The Crucible, Miller was tried before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1957 for suspicion of communist beliefs. The ties between The Crucible are undeniable, with clear parallels appearing in the form of characters and plot devices. The themes of irrational fear of opposing ideas along with abuse of the justice system to target specific ideas are key themes visible in both Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and 1950s America.