The Crucible and McCarthyism

Essay by silverbullet1412High School, 11th gradeA, February 2008

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None other than McCarthy himself once said, “McCarthyism is Americanism with its sleeves rolled.” During the 1950s, many Americans thought that McCarthy’s aggressive search for communist infiltrators proved an admirable form of patriotism. His victims were often artists from Hollywood, and it is therefore no surprise that many pieces of literature were produced to deprecate the government under Senator McCarthy. Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible, written in 1953, has been commonly regarded as an anti-McCarthyistic play. Although the HUAC trials provoked Arthur Miller to write The Crucible, his intention was not to directly attack McCarthyism but rather to criticize the unjust accusations and verdicts that have occurred in various cultures and times.

There is no doubt that the HUAC trials influenced Miller in his decision to write a play about the Salem witch trials of 1692. Arthur Miller’s friends, most of them working in Hollywood, had had “brush[es] with Marxist ideas or organizations” (Miller, “Are You Now…” 3).

As he witnessed their tragedy and pondered about their emotionally painful experience, he was reminded of the Salem witch trials that he had studied in university. Soon he began to see similarities between both trials. Juries accused innocent people based on false or no evidence at all, and once they were condemned and labelled as witches or communists, they were victimized. The psychological pressure was immense for most of the population. The ones who benefited from those imputations were seldom challenged by opponents, and if resistance did occur, it would most likely be brought to an untimely end. In the play, Miller included a commentary on the parallels between the witch trials and the governmental hearings of his time. “In the countries of the Communist ideology, all resistance of any import is linked to the totally malign capitalist succubi, and...