, Research Paper
The Crucible and the McCarthy Era
Arthur Miller s The Crucible, depicts the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692 but is analogous to the McCarthy trials of the 1950s. In both situations, widespread hysteria occurs, stemming from existing fears of the people of that particular era. The Salem witchhunt trials parallel the McCarthy era in three major aspects: unfounded accusations, hostile interrogation of numerous innocent people and the ruination and death of various people s lives.
The unfounded accusations that Joseph McCarthy and the girls in The Crucible make are what fuels the widespread hysteria in both situations. McCarthy is quoted as declaring in a speech, “I have here in my hand a list of 205 that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who, nevertheless, are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.” This is the first of the many unwarranted charges that he claims. The girls in The Crucible, all make unwarranted charges against people for witchcraft, especially Abigail Williams. The leader of the accusations, she accuses various people from Elizabeth Proctor to Tituba. Joseph McCarthy and the girls earn the respect and awe of the people, instead of being riduculed for their unfounded accusations.
The hostile interrogation of numerous innocent people occurs during both time periods. During the McCarthy trials, the inquisitors attempt to use slippery tactics to implicate the accused and others. Often, shouting matches would occur on the floor of the Senate when the people are adamant about their innocence. Throughout the Salem witch trials, Judge Danforth and Hathorne would constantly badger the accused to confess. In Act III, Hathorne claims, “How do you know, then, that you are not a witch?” (Pg. 1221) After Martha Corey denies herself being a witch, Hathorne persists by saying, “Why do you hurt these children?” The hostile interrogation of both periods failed to bring forth concrete evidence for a genuine communist or witch.
The ruination and deaths of various people of the McCarthy trials and the Salem witchhunt are appalling. Multitudinous amounts of people are affected by these trials. Over 2,000 people are accused and fired by their government positions by the end of the McCarthy trials. During the Salem witchhunt, at least twenty people are hung and 150 others are jailed. The lives of these people, being changed after the trials had to rebuild a new life for themselves. People s careers are destroyed and property is taken away, as a result. The ruination and deaths of various people are a result of Joseph McCarthy s and the girls unfounded accusations.
The Salem witchcraft trials are very similar to the McCarthy trials in three aspects: unfounded accusations, hostile interrogation of numerous innocent people and the ruination and death of various people s lives. Mass accusations are made for personal gain and no good has resulted from these trials. Arthur Miller has written The Crucible, not for historical accuracy but rather, as an outlet for his sentiments during the time of the McCarthy trials.