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Parallels to Mccarthyism in The Crucible by Arthur Miller

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Humans are driven by many different things, whether it be natural instinct or societal behaviors that are continually expressed again and again, driving a certain portion of the population towards something, whether for the better or the worse. Two shining examples of social behaviors driving an event can be found within the Salem witch trials in the 1600’s and McCarthyism in the United States during the 1950’s. McCarthyism is an example of what can happen when a movement is driven solely by unsubstantiated allegations and a goal to amass popularity and fame by any means necessary, even if they are unscrupulous. Joseph McCartney went on a political campaign whose goals were to disrupt the everyday American way of life by shooting out allegations towards anyone deemed to be “un-American”, those in the media and entertainment were the ones largely targeted by McCarthy and his acolytes. One well-known person who was targeted was Arthur Miller, a popular playwright who eventually wrote a play called “The Crucible”, which centered around the Salem witch trials and the negative outcomes and consequences of uncontrolled and chaotic social behaviors, parallel to that of McCarthyism. In the play, a group of girls are found dancing and messing around within the woods by Reverend Parris, and after that everything spirals out of control and mass hysteria and false truths run rampant in the village, ultimately leading to the deaths of innocents and a major breakdown of trust between the inhabitants and also with the government. Although certain social behaviors can be positive for the population or even eye opening, however many social behaviors and beliefs can easily become corrupted or negative when it is flooded with falsifiable truths or skewed ideas, and or when a small few with malicious intent take over and spread whatever they can to gain popularity and control over people, therefore leading to mass hysteria and a gullible populace.

One theme from The Crucible is that once a certain type of person who feels as if they deserve something more or feel as if they’re social nobodies gain power, they become vindictive towards those who they see as obstacles in the way or threats to their temporary status of power, therefore causing social behaviors to start leaning towards more negative and consequential purposes and outcomes. One such conversation in The Crucible that illustrates this is the one between John Proctor and Mary Warren who continuously argue back and forth, with Mary Warren coming out as pompous and largely narcissistic. John Proctor tells her “You will not go to the court again, Mary Warren”, in which Mary Warren responds with “I must tell you, sir, I will be gone every day now. I am amazed you do not see what weighty work we do.” She stands up to John Proctor out of spite and an attitude that is egocentric in nature. Now that she knows that she is part of a group that the whole village has their eyes on and also has importance to a degree, she feels as if she can fight back towards anyone who disagrees with her and can just use her influence to get her way one way or another. Her and the other females who accuse a multitude of people of being insidious and dark is an example of the Law of the Few from the Tipping Point, which means that the personalities and drives of a select few people can drive and hold sway over an event or movement. Mary Warren, Abigail, and the others with their recent rise to popularity and influence within the village allows them to easily influence the minds of the village inhabitants and the direction that the court goes in relative to the case and those indicted. With their constant faking of supernatural events and nonstop hysteria they continually exude, they with ease manipulate the people into believing them that there is witchcraft in the village. Another social behavior that plays into The Crucible is that of the Power of Context, in that the time at which the Salem witch trials happened, i.e. the 1600’s, allows for a multitude of different things to come into play. Since the logical reasoning of the time was skewed and twisted, and the religious zealous of the New World inhabitants was extreme, it easily allowed for the the Salem witch trials to happen since there was no proposition put forth to use objective reasoning or empirical evidence as a basis for explaining or concluding something. Ultimately, with the power in the hands of a vindictive few who desired to be noticed, it allowed for the events and killing of innocents to happen with ease at the time and goes to the show the negative consequences of what happens when those few in power are allowed to be where they are without questioning the motives and reasoning.

In the 1950’s, Joseph McCarthy went on a widespread campaign to denounce and accuse a multitude of people of being communists and unloyal subjects to the American public and way of life. It targeted every sector, from the State Department all the way to Hollywood, McCarthy spread his ideas and unsubstantiated claims over and over again, largely without any consequence or actions taken against him for his disruptive actions and misaligned behavior. It targeted Arthur Miller, as stated earlier, and that was a major reason for why he wrote The Crucible. A quote from Arthur Miller that illustrates and shows what the period was like with McCarthyism running rampant, states that “I refer to the anti-communist rage that threatened to reach hysterical proportions and sometimes did. I can’t remember anyone calling it an ideological war, but I think now that that is what it amounted to. I suppose we rapidly passed over anything like a discussion or debate, and into something quite different, a hunt not just for subversive people, but for ideas and even a suspect language.” A social behavior from the Tipping Point that best correlates with McCarthyism is, like The Crucible, that of the Power of Context. Just as how the Salem witch trials happened in a time period of unsurety and backwards reasoning, so did McCarthyism, albeit in a far more advanced and sophisticated time period. With the end of the Second World War only a few years in the past and with the rise of tensions and conflicting ideologies once more at play, it allowed for McCarthyism to spread rapidly and easily throughout the American people, just like the inhabitants of Salem, who were unsure and weary of anything that might threaten them, so was a great deal of the American public, as they were willing to follow any movement or behavior that would protect their ideas against the “evilness” of the East and breakdown of society by communism, therefore allowing for someone like Joseph McCarthy to gain a foothold in the minds of the American people effortlessly. Mass hysteria was almost everywhere in the United States as things and events were blown out of proportion and accusations were shot at anyone deemed to be a threat. The willingness to believe in whatever was espoused by a small persuasive few was because of the hysteria that was spreading continuously throughout the American public and the small insecurities or problems that were brought up again and again without rest. McCarthyism was largely driven by misaligned social behaviors and the willingness by the American to give into anything, as long as it connected to the problem and rewarded them with a small sense of security, which itself was not true.

The reasons for Arthur Miller’s creation of The Crucible play was largely from the craziness and hysteria of McCarthyism and how easily the public can become misinformed and manipulated to a large extent to serve the purpose of a certain few who desire nothing but popularity and attention in society. He shows just how easily movements and beliefs can get out of hand when false ideas and constant impounding of those ideas into the public’s minds happen. The importance of literature is that it can easily parallel reality and show just how nonsensical and insane some events or behaviors in human society can get, Parallels To McCarthyism In The Crucible By Arthur Millerand the consequences of false widespread beliefs in the public, literature can be eye opening in that it can show and point out just how ridiculous certain things are, its educational value is limitless and should never be underestimated in what it might just show. 

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