Arthur Miller's The Crucible focuses on the fearful relationship between
society and the individual ("Readings on Arthur Miller" 145).
Individual: being a witch in the seventeenth century or being a
Communist in the 1950's. Miller states: The Crucible is involved
essentially with the social relations of human beings, and
consequently, the predominant emphasis in writing the play was on
the conflict ("Readings on Arthur Miller" 145). Although, both
situations coincide with inquisition and mass hysteria, they conflict at
the fact that Communism among Americans existed in the 1950's,
while witchcraft among seventeenth century Salem townspeople failed
to be an actuality.
In both time periods interrogation was present. As in 1692, the
inquisition of witches and wizards had its controversies, so did the
oppression on Communist party members in the 1950's ("Un-
American Activities, House Committee on" Microsoft Encarta 97
Encyclopedia, "Witchcraft" Microsoft Encarta 97 Encyclopedia).
Twenty people were hanged for not confessing to such heresies.
Similarly, large numbers of Americans lost their jobs and materials or
were imprisoned if failed to be a true American. What is shown in
both eras was the existence of what we can call unsubstantiated
evidence and suffering of being accused.
Interrogations and hearings such as these stirred up suspicion
and fear, causing mass hysteria. Both eras suffered from this. Those
accused of witchcraft and wizardry saved themselves by confessing
and then by accusing others. To be arraigned, all you need is some
insignificant amount of proof by a townsperson or accused witch,
many of which accusations were only revenge of past incidents, or to
appease the court. Likewise, this happened during the McCarthy Era.
Knowing the wrong person affected your standing possibilities of
whether you would be arraigned or not. Therefore, everyone feared
each other, if you were or were not a suspect. Pointing fingers was
the only way to show your sincerity to the protection of the country.
Mass hysteria was a result of these hearings because of the suspicion
and fear it stirred.
The Red Scare and the Salem witch trials were definitely alike in
some ways, still, the parallel fails at one important point:
Communism existed; witchcraft did not ("Readings on Arthur Miller"
145). At the time of the Salem witch trials, the psychological states
("Readings on Arthur Miller" 145) of the victims were different than
those during the Red Scare. Miller states: ...the individual is seen
through society ("Just Looking for a Home" online). He is referring to
the McCarthy Era. Those blacklisted were connected with the
Communist Party, and they were guilty of that. Yet, others had no
connection at all. So, Communism was real and society looked down
on the existing Communists. But, Miller also states: ...society is seen
through the individual ("Just Looking for a Home" online). Here, he
refers to the psychological state of the victims of the Salem witch
trials. All the accused were not witches, but were forced to believe
that they were the "bad" of society. Although, this is not so among
the McCarthy Era, because they knew whether or not they were
Capitalist or Communist. An example of forced belief comes from
Tituba's confession. To compensate, you had to confess. In other
words, the victim in Salem believed he was "bad" and saw society as
"good." Communism existed in the McCarthy Era, but witchcraft only
existed among the Salem townspeople because they were forced to
believe that it existed among themselves.
Arthur Miller was able to reflect the same dilemmas that existed
on both time periods. However, they differ in the actual existence of
the "bad" individuals. Many innocent lives and worklives were
claimed as a result of these trials, yet, Arthur Miller was able to
expound this through his works.