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The Crucible as an Allegory of Mccarthyism

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Fear is an emotion that every human being experiences, it is pretty much inevitable. The varying intensity of this emotion can cause people to act or react in ways that may be unusual. A famous man once said, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself,” (Franklin D. Roosevelt). When it comes to McCarthyism and Aurthur Miller’s The Crucible, this is true. Despite the obvious differences between the series of events and the people involved in Aurthur Miller’s The Crucible and the red scare, Miller’s play alludes to the concept of McCarthyism by acknowledging the hesitancy to challenge authority and the promotion of widespread fear, making his play an allegory.

McCarthyism played a negative role in society during the 1950s and it negatively impacted many innocent people’s lives. During this time, very few people were willing to stand up and challenge McCarthy and his accusations, “No one dared tangle with McCarthy”. People feared that going against McCarthy would result in them being marked disloyal and being suspected of supporting communism. Being supportive of communism was greatly frowned upon and it ultimately meant being against the United States government. People suspected of supporting communism were often arrested and taken in for investigation. Majority had their reputations smeared, businesses ruined, and careers destroyed. This fate was the same for the sympathizers and associates of people that were suspected of communism. Many of the accused lost friends and were abandoned by family due to the fact that just associating with a “suspected communist” could get them in big trouble and ruin their lives. In The Crucible by Aurthur Miller, the same is true. Being accused or suspected of witchcraft meant being arrested and questioned. When brought the list of names to save the wives, Danforth ordered for everyone on the list to be arrested claiming that “a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there be no road between”. The list was signed by ninety-one people in an attempt to prove that Elizabeth, Rebecca, and Martha Corey were innocent. But just like McCarthy, Danforth felt that these people were going against him by sympathizing for the women. Today, most people still fear “going against the grain”. From teenagers breaking rules just to look cool for their peers to adults at work keeping quiet about the new policies despite their disagreeances. This is one way that McCarthyism came to be.

The red scare, which occurred due to the rising communist and McCarthyism issue, caused widespread fear among the people of the United States. People were fearful of the thought of communism taking over after two spies were convicted. Julis Rosenberg and his wife Ethel were convicted of spying and giving confidential US information to the Soviets and Ari Cushner goes on to say “the prominent convictions of a few suspected spies fueled a frenzy by many who ‘saw communists’ everywhere,” (Cold War/Red Scare). In 1950, McCarthy claimed to have a list of 205 suspected communists. The list was later proven to be made up, meaning he never even had a list. And after witnessing two real spies get executed, the thought of possibly being on the list instilled fear into people’s hearts and they began accusing whoever they could, including neighbors and coworkers, in an effort to make themselves look loyal. Aurthur Miller’s The Crucible had similar aspects.

Fear sometimes makes people do unusual things in an effort to keep themselves safe. In the McCarthyism era, the promotion of widespread fear caused panic which led to innocent people’s lives being ruined. The same can be said for Authur Miller’s The Crucible. The play alludes to many aspects of the red scare and McCarthyism era, but mainly the promotion of widespread fear and the hesitancy to challenge authority. There is nothing to fear but fear itself and what fear makes people do.

Works Cited

  • “Arthur Miller.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 10 Mar. 2017, www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/arthur-miller-mccarthyism/484/.
  • Learning, Ari Cushner. “US History II (American Yawp).” Lumen, courses.lumenlearning.com/ushistory2ay/chapter/the-cold-war-red-scare-mccarthyism-and-liberal-anti-communism-2/. 

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