Mccarthyism And The Witch Trials Essay, Research Paper
It is hard to believe how one single person can gain so much power. Enough power to falsely accuse many people of something they are not. Through the fear of a society one person can control everyone and everything. Senator Joseph McCarhty had that power for four years. McCarthy was not well-liked but he learned how to be feared through his accusations of communism against many U.S. government officials. Abigail Williams was feared by the town of Salem, Massachusetts through her accusations of witchcraft against many respected townspeople. Arthur Miller used literary devices in The Crucible to represent the ideals of a Puritan society and to convey the hidden parallels suggesting history repeats itself through the destructiveness of McCarthyism and the Salem witch trials.
Miller relied heavily on metaphors within The Crucible to show that the Puritan’s ways and attitudes were not always as pure as they claimed. “It’s winter in here yet”(Miller 51). This quote metaphorically represented the coldness and separation between the characters John and Elizabeth Proctor. John Proctor has tried to make amends with his wife for the affair he had with Abigail Williams. Miller wrote this to show there are always flaws within a society; even the puritans made mistakes. “It’s warm as blood beneath the clods”(50). Miller used this for two purposes: one represented what
the Putnum’s were searching for and the second foreshadowed something evil and bad coming. The number of those accused of witchcraft started with only a few and quickly rose to around fifty-five innocent people. As for McCarthy’s accusations of communism the first number was two hundred and five which increased over the next four years. The amount of those accused of communism and witchcraft was so high because in both cases
no hard evidence was needed to be found guilty. The accused were thought of as guilty until proven innocent which is in contrast to today.
Miller used people and events in his play to symbolize Joseph McCarthy and what he did. “I want to open myself! I want the light of God, I want the sweet love of Jesus! I saw Sarah Good with the Devil!”(48). This quote came from Abigail Williams who symbolized McCarthy. She was the instigator and the first to make an accusation. McCarthy was the main accuser also but he had Roy Cohn and David Schine under him to make wild accusations. McCarthy’s aids were symbolized by the afflicted friends of Abigail. The town of Salem quickly became scared of Abigail because she accused so
many people that everyone thought they were going to be next. This symbolized The Red Scare created by McCarthy. Miller wanted to show how much power Abigail and McCarthy had over the society. Miller used symbolism to represent the obvious parallels between the witch trials and McCarthyism.
Irony was used in The Crucible to show the connections of McCarthyism in 1950 to the Salem witch trials in 1692. “Are you drunk Marshal?”(124). Marshal Herrick was a representative of the law in Salem and was ironically found drunk on the job. Miller wrote that to show how careless the law could be. During the McCarthy era congressional committees often abused their powers of investigation which also showed how careless the law was then. In Salem not admitting to witchcraft got the accused hanged while admitting to it allowed them to live. Miller wanted to show how stupid the
system was. It was ironic that the Puritans who stayed faithful, honest, and never lied about being something they were not, were killed. Those who went against their beliefs and untruthfully claimed to be witches were the ones who kept their lives. Ironically the Puritans were anything but pure. Joseph McCarthy should have lived during the Puritan era, he would have fit in perfect.
Arthur Miller’s main purpose was to show that history repeats itself. He chose to do it in a subtle way so he would not be accused of communism himself. The Crucible showed many hidden parallels and messages between Joseph McCarthy’s hunt for communists and the famous witch hangings in Salem. Miller wanted to show that McCarthy’s accusations were nothing but a witch hunt and he did this through literary devices such as: metaphors, symbolism, and irony.