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the Crucible and the Red Scare

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Mady Heil

on 25 October 2012

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Transcript of the Crucible and the Red Scare

Similarities between the political climate
surrounding the Crucible and the Red Scare, the era of McCarthyism. The Courts Mass Hysteria Increasing Severity Integrity Accusations Contempt and fear of the courts were large factors in both the Red Scare and the Crucible.
Arthur Miller was summoned and questioned by the House of Un-American Activities Commission about a meeting he had attended that was accused of having communist ties. He was asked to reveal the names of the people who he had attended this meeting with. Upon his refusal to release any names, the court stated, "his refusal to name names would invite charges of being unpatriotic and in connection with Un-American ties." In return, he stated, "I decline to make any such statement, which I found demeaning; what right had any organization to demand anyone's pledge of loyalty?" He was indicted and found guilty of contempt of congress on May 31, 1957 The Red Scare was basically just one huge breakout of mass hysteria. People became paranoid over the ideas of communism and espionage. Similarly to in the Crucible, many people were put on trial and convicted without proper evidence and were innocent. Miller wrote the Crucible to show the affects of mass hysteria, similar to that of the Red Scare, and to try and help prevent it in the future. During the Red Scare, people were being accused of espionage, communism, and contempt of the court. Many of these people completely innocent. Logical fallacies played a large role in the convictions of the accused. If you denied you had communist ties, the courts saw it as a lie covering up the fact that you are a communist. In some cases, it was almost better to confess, even if it was not true. During the Red Scare, the integrity of many American citizens was challenged. Do to the logical fallacies of the accusations and trials of this time, people had to decide whether or not to confess to communistic ties, or give away the names of others involved in un-american activities. Miller wrote, "(The trials are like) the sensation of being trapped inside a perverse work of art... in which it is impossible to make out whether a stairway is going up or down." This quote alone describes the feelings of people that confess to crimes that were never committed to save their integrity and not give the names of others involved, knowing they will be accused and convicted as well. In the Crucible, Giles Corey attempts to defend his wife. He states that Putnam forced his daughter into accusing George Jacobs of witchcraft to gain his land. When asked where he had received his information, he states "I cannot give you a name." Hawthorne, confused by his hesitation to give a name, asks "And why not?" To which Corey bursts, "You know well why not! He'll lay in jail if I give his name!" Hawthorne the declares full court in session and Corey is placed under arrest for contempt of the court. Arthur Miler included this in the Crucible to show how the courts punished innocent people for trying to save others in both the Red Scare and the Salem Witch Trials and the courts did not even recognize it. In the Crucible, mass hysteria is present and increases throughout the entire play. My personal favorite example. and probably the example that stands out the most is when Giles Corey is telling Hale what his wife was convicted of. He states, "..Walcott charge her. Y'see, he buy a pig off my wife.. and the pig die soon after." The people of Salem are so overcome by the theory of witchcraft, they believe it is to blame for everything and that obviously if a pig dies, its because Martha bewitched it. They become ridiculous with their accusations due to the mass hysteria. The increase in severity of the Red Scare and in the Crucible are almost identical. The Red Scare began with a small group of people that were suspicious of Communism in the United States. Once Senator Joseph McCarthy became involved, the situation billowed out of control and developed into the mass hysteria we know it now to have been. In the first act of the Crucible, Abigail says, "The rumor of witchcraft is about." This is the first we hear of it. From this point on, more people begin to visit Betty and the other girls and begin to talk of witchcraft. Eventually, it turns into mass hysteria with 19 alleged witches hung, Giles Corey "pressed" to death, and hundreds of others put in on trial or in jail. The same illogical thought processes were apparent in the Crucible. Elizabeth is one of the few characters that notice this and when questioned by Hale about her being a witch says, "I you think that I am one, then I say there are none." She is not saying that she "doubts the gospel," but she is saying that if she says she believes in witches, it must mean she has proof and that she is a witch. If she says she does not believe in witches, they will say she is lying because she is a witch. In the Crucible, John Proctor may not be the most truthful or righteous man, but he has the integrity to stand up against the courts, and ultimately give his life if it means he keeps his integrity. He saw what the courts were doing and how unjust they were. He is willing to destroy his name by telling the courts he had an affair with Abigail if it meant possibly saving his wife and the others on trial. In this quote, he talks about saving his "name" or "integrity." "Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! ... How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!" At the end of the play, he knows he is going to be convicted and hanged, but instead of giving up and letting the courts win by confessing, he exclaims, "God is dead." Danforth is already going to hang him, so at least Proctor knows he has his integrity and did not lie to please these unjust courts. Bibliography www.ushistory.org/us/47a.asp
Georgia State University

Mass Hysteria of the Red Scare
Eileen Burke
Wales University of Rhode Island
The Crucible
Arthur Miller (1953)
Full transcript