rote thecharacter Abigail Williams, he shows how people
rote The CrucibleAuthors often have underlying reasons for giving their stories certain themes or settings. Arthur Millers masterpiece, The Crucible, is a work of art inspired by actual events as a responseto political and moral issues. Set in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, The Crucible proves to haveits roots in events of the 1950s and 1960s, such as the activities of the House Un-AmericanCommittee and the Red Scare. Though the play provides an accurate account of the Salemwitch trials, its real achievement lies in the many important issues of Millers time that it dealsThroughout The Crucible, Miller is concerned with conscience and guilt. Through thecharacter Abigail Williams, he shows how people are willing to abandon their firmly-established values in order to conform with the majority and protect themselves.
Those who refuse to part with their conscience, such as the character of John Proctor, are chastised for it. For this reason,the Salem witch trials raise a question of the administration of justice. During this time in the late1600s, people were peroccupied by a fear of the devil, due to their severe Puritan belief system.
Nineteen innocent people are hanged on the signature of Deputy Governor Danforth, who has the authority to try, convict, and execute anyone he deems appropriate. However, we as readerssense little to no real malice in Danworth. Rather, ignorance and fear plague him.
The masshysteria brought about by the witchcraft scare in The Crucible leads to the upheaval in peoplesdifferentiation between right and wrong, fogging their sense of true justice.When Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible in the early 1950s, the United States wasexperiencing a modern witch hunt of its own. Senator Joseph McCarthy, provoked by the ColdWar, became fearfully convinced that Communists, or Reds, were polluting Americangovernment.
He intended to hunt them out, force them to confess, and make them name theirassociates, almost as the Salem judges had done. In fact, the character of Danforth is based onMcCarthy himself.There is a great parallel between the witch trials and the Red Scare. Bothcreated a frenzy among the public, involved people going against each other to prove theirinnocence, and sought to hunt out those who rebelled against the dominant values of the time.
Arthur Millers own involvement in the McCarthy witch hunt is very significant in the writing of The Crucible. He himself appeared before the House Committee on Un-AmericanActivities in 1956, accused of being a Communist. He admitted to having attended a Communistmeeting years earlier to learn about their views. He was asked to name the others at the meetingbut refused, stating, I am trying to and I will protect my sense of myself. Millers reaction to hiscross-examination is similar to that of John Proctor, who represents Millers belief thatrighteousness is maintained if ones moral sense is kept. In Millers case, he was convicted ofcontempt, but the conviction was later appealed and reversed. It is evident that he wrote aboutMcCarthyism indirectly to protect himself at the time.
The witch hunt in Salem in 1692 and McCarthyism and the Red Scare in the United Statesin the 1950s are remarkably similar situations. The issues dealt with by Miller in documentingone of these clearly describes almost exactly the issues of the other. Miller masterfully uses theunfamiliar setting of the Salem witch hunt to comment on his own time. It is obvious in all theevents represented through the writing of The Crucible that there is a common loss of judgementdue to unjustified hysteria. The fact that we see this pattern repeat itself throughout history byreading this play points out that Miller recognizes this as a major concern of society. Though Arthur Miller creates parallels between controversies that occurred in verydifferent times, it is the great universal significance of The Crucible that makes it successful.
Millers concern with the shedding of guilt, the loss of morality, lack of genuine justice and theway he deals with these as a theme in the play have a stronger relevance that is striking. He alsouses this theme to create a remarkable drama, but more importantly, they are issues that areapplicable and crucial to him. Accordingly, The Crucible is far more than a story of the past. Rather, it is an allegory of our times.Bibliography:none