The Crucible by Arthur Miller
The Crucible is a fictional play written by Arthur Miller that revolves around witches in Salem, Massachusetts. The events took place in 1692 and address the Salem Witch Trials at a time when New England residents lived in hysteria and paranoia in fear of the unknown.
In the 1950s, this play serves as a metaphor since similar occurrences are witnessed during the Communist era which brought great fear to people’s lives (Bradford 1-4).
Published in 1953, this play was found wanting by critics for its apparent failure to portray the depth of events, as well as intellectual insight and the characters, also seemed unnatural.
However, the play received praise in the 1950s for its ability to bring out the political climate of the moment which had been brought about by anti-communism.
It is to date ranked among America’s finest plays (Tanis 1-2). This paper focuses on how the events that took place in the 1950s influenced The Crucible.
The Institute of Un-American Activities
The Crucible was held controversial by critics, and in 1956, its author, Arthur Miller was summoned by the Un-American Activities Committee because he was sympathetic to communism.
In this trial, Miller admitted his association with Communist writers but made it clear that he was never a member of the Communist Party. In 1957, Miller was convicted of failing to name other Communists who were suspected to be affiliated to him (Galvin 2).
However, this conviction was renounced in 1958 by the Supreme Court and the same year saw him being elected as a member of the National Arts and Letters Institute.
This seemed to open a new page in Miller’s life who was elected yet again as the International President of PEN (Poets, Essayists and Novelists Association) in 1965. These events propelled his works higher, especially ‘The Crucible’ which became popular with the years (Tanis 2).
The Hollywood 10
The Crucible premiered just when communism was being fought hard by the likes of McCarthy. He suspected key figures with communism ties to be Hollywood names which included producers, actors, directors, and screenwriters.
McCarthy thus embarked on a campaign against the Hollywood 10 which ensured that they did not get employed unless they denounced their association to communism.
When these Hollywood 10 were called upon before McCarthy for questioning, they refused to cooperate with him. They defended their stand by saying that their freedom of speech was being infringed upon about the First Amendment (Bennet 3-5).
This led to eight of them serving a prison sentence of one year with charges of contempt of Congress while the other two got away with six-month imprisonment. Also, the Hollywood Ten were fired by the Hollywood executives in the Waldorf Statement.
Miller wrote his play the Crucible around this time which proved to be anti-McCarthy, and this made him very angry. The play was a metaphor which portrayed McCarthy’s “witch hunt,” and this led to Miller’s questioning and conviction which was later overturned (Hoyt 1-3).
Senator Joe McCarthy
The 1950s were characterized by the growing communism which was threatening to take over Eastern Europe and Asia. In this wake, Joseph McCarthy who was then a senator came out publicly citing that hundreds of communists had infiltrated the United States government.
These accusations were declared false after investigations, and this saw his being censured. However, this did not end here, and his accusations intensified the political tensions which birthed the era of McCarthyism (Reeves 8).
This led to a wide hunt for the infiltrators and the worst affected by this move included writers such as Miller among others who were said to be sympathizing with the communists in their written works.
As a result, their passports were confiscated, and this made it hard for them to continue working. Others were jailed for failing to cooperate with the investigators, and this marked an end to promising careers for many of them who were blacklisted (Educational Broadcasting Corporation 1-3).
The fear of communism in the 1950s
The 1950s were characterized by political anxiety as a result of nuclear weapons which had been designed to destroy American life. In his play ‘The Crucible,’ Miller demonstrates the cruelty that people faced about the events of the McCarthy Trials.
The crucible portrays a people full of fear of the unknown as the witch hunt continues which in this scenario is a metaphor referring to the Communist hunt.
These trials came to be largely known as the “red trials,” and Miller’s idea was to create scenes that revealed the ills of this era. The Crucible and the McCarthy era have many similarities in that the girls involved in witchcraft named people they did not like much as suspects.
During the “red trials,” the same thing happened when those that were seen to be showing sympathy to communism were immediately branded as communists. What resulted was severe punishment, and the rude shock is that many innocent people were punished unfairly (Johnson 125).
The crucible is a fictional play of witchcraft events that allegedly took place in New England. It is a metaphor that sheds more light into the communism era that brought about political anxiety and paranoia all over America in the 1950s.
Through this study, we can see how the discussed events influenced the Crucible which is considered to be one of America’s finest plays today.
The play flourished despite the opposition it faced at a time of political heat and educated the people on the events that were taking place in their lives.
Bennet, Robert. “The Hollywood 10 and the Blacklist.” Modern US History 4 (2010): 3-5. Print.
Bradford, Wade. “The Crucible Plot summary – Synopsis of Arthur Miller’s Play.” Plays / Drama Guide 2 (2010): 1-4. Print.
Educational Broadcasting Corporation. “Arthur Miller versus McCarthy.” National Endowment for the Arts 3 (2011): 1-3. Print.
Galvin, Rachel. “Arthur Miller: The Biography.” National Endowment for the Humanities 1 (2006): 2. Print.
Hoyt, Alia. “How McCarthyism worked.” Attacking Hollywood 4 (1998): 1-4. Print.
Johnson, Claudia. Understanding the Crucible: A student casebook to issues, sources and historical documents. USA: Greenwood Press, 2000. Print.
Reeves, Thomas. “The life and times of Joe McCarthy: A Biography.” Appleton Public Library 1 (2003): 8. Print.
Tanis, Beth. Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. USA: Research and Education Association, 2002. Print.