Miller, McCarthyism and The Crucible
In the 1950’s, while Arthur Miller was writing among his most famous works, The Crucible, mass hysteria struck the United States like a wildfire. Senator Joseph McCarthy, notoriously understood for the McCarthyism period of the 1950’s, was carrying out a project to root out the Communists in America. It is obvious that this occasion influenced the entire plot of Miller’s play, leading the majority of his audience to think that he was not “blind to the world” when he composed it.
In Arthur Miller’s narrative Timebends, he explains that “In the beginning [he] declined the idea of a play on the topic. [His] own rationality was too strong, [he] thought, to truly permit [himself] to capture this wildly unreasonable break out.” (Miller, 1987, pg. 220). Initially, Miller didn’t think that he might do the Salem witch trials justice if he were to compose a play on the topic. Gradually, a lightbulb went off in his head, which he describes in the statement “A living connection in between Salem and Washington was made in my mind.” (Miller, 1987, pg. 220). This quote is hard proof from Miller himself that proves true that he was not blind to the world when he composed the play. He makes the connection in between McCarthy and the accusers in Salem, realizing that he might produce a story based off of the present state of America’s corrupt society, and, more specifically, a character who might represent the creator of the Communist hysteria.
Abigail Williams is the primary antagonist in The Crucible, and is described as being a stunning, cunning, and manipulative seventeen years of age girl. She manipulates her buddies to implicate a number of the innocent individuals in Salem of practicing witchcraft. Abby riles up the entire town’s worry and hatred of witches to get power, similar to her 20th century counterpart, Senator Joseph McCarthy, riled up America’s fear and hatred of Communists. McCarthy publicly accused numerous Americans, primarily performers, of being a part of the Communist party, which in turn ruined their careers. Miller needed to alter Abby’s age so that she could be a close historic representation of the infamous Joseph McCarthy. It is evident throughout the play that Miller planned Abby’s actions to be historically parallel to Joseph McCarthy’s.
The trials in Salem and the hearings in Washington are almost exactly parallel to each other. The principal accusers in both cases understood who they were going to take advantage of and lied directly to the courts, which was clearly a conspiracy. In Miller’s Timebends, he states that “in every case, the committee understood beforehand what they wanted the witness to give to them; the names of associates in the Celebration.” (Miller, 1987, pg. 220). The main goal of the Committee was to persuade the person on trial to give the names of more people declared to be a part of the Communist celebration. In Salem. Abigail and the women covered up their reckless habits in the woods by blaming their actions on witchcraft. If you were implicated of being a witch in this time period, you had two choices; confess to a criminal activity that you didn’t dedicate, or adhere to the reality and be hanged. By confessing, you were forced to offer the names of a fellow “witch”. Miller based the trials in Salem on the corrupt justice system in America throughout the McCarthyism period. In the article Demons of Salem With Us Still, written by Miller’s good friend, Victor Navasky, he writes that “Mr. Miller let that choice lapse and was soon arraigned for contempt of Congress when he refused to respond to the committes questions on Communists he had actually known.” (Navasky, 1996, pg. 218). Miller knew first-hand how the court system attempted to control the accused into giving the names of other Communists, and utilized this to his advantage when composing The Crucible.
The trials in Washington resulted in Communist hunts, comparable to the witch hunts that took place in Miller’s play. In Satanic forces of Salem With Us Still, it specifies that “the hunt for subversives as consistently labeled a witch hunt, after the infamous Salem witch trials.” (Navasky, 1996, pg. 218). Miller made this connection and made it the main point of his play. In Salem, once the accusers offered the names of the “witches” to the courts, they set out on a witch hunt. This is displayed in Act II, when Abigail implicates Elizabeth Proctor of witchcraft. When John and Elizabeth reject the allegations, Cheever states “I am given sixteen warrant tonight, sir, and she is one.” (Miller, 1952, pg.77) The word “witch” ended up being a taboo in American society during the Red Scare, in addition to the word “communist”. In The Devils of Salem With United States Still, Savasky states that “The term “Communist” had actually been so demonized that like the word “witch”, it symbolized something that truly didn’t exist in popular meaning.” (Navasky, 1996, pg. 218). Arthur Miller utilized this to compose his play, due to the fact that he recognized that McCarthy was developing a contemporary Salem witch trials.
From comparing The Crucible to McCarthyism, we can inform that Miller plainly wrote his play with both eyes open. Declaring that he as “blind to the world” while writing it can be shown incorrect numerous times with the mass quantities of proof given up The Crucible, Timebends, and The Devils of Salem With Us Still. Miller used the method of distancing his narrative on McCarthyism by utilizing the Salem witch trials as a setting for his play effectively to portray his purpose. The strong comparrisons between both prove that Miller was not blind to the world when he wrote it.