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Contemporary Events Leading to The Crucible Lee Wang

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When The Crucible opened on January 22, 1953, audiences greeted it with lukewarm applause. Critics did what they do best by scolding the new play. What is now arguably the most influential allegorical play on the subject of Communism composed throughout the Cold War period, did simply badly during its very first production run. Broadway audiences took the play as a history lesson, while critics were hesitant to promote a play hailing the hunt for Communists as downright incredulous. Yet less than one year later, with your house of Un-American Activities Committee’s trials in full swing, and with Hollywood in chaos, a totally brand-new production of The Crucible swept the nation and ended up being an instantaneous hit (Miller, Why I Wrote). Today, some 40 years later, The Crucible is known globally, carried out in dozens of countries, and is a sign for a myriad of political and social ideas. Based on the Salem witch trials in colonial Massachusetts, The Crucible is open to different analyses. However, to truly understand the original underlying message that Miller tried to create, one must want to the reasons behind his writing of this play and examine how Miller embodies his concepts within the play itself.

Remarkably, Miller’s original inspiration to scribe a play referencing the Salem witch trials came not from the prosecution of expected Communists in the courts of prohibited procedures, but rather in the days of his college education at the University of Michigan, after checking out a thousand-page study on the subject of the Salem witch trials. This research study was written in 1867 by Charles W. Upham, who was the mayor of Salem when he wrote the study (Miller, Why I Wrote). In truth, somebody without substantial anticipation of the Salem witch trials might be led to think that Miller’s variation of events is fairly accurate in a historic sense. Without prior knowledge of Miller’s inspiration in relation to the Communist witch-hunts during his time, one may even think that The Crucible is really a historical play using an accurate rendition of the Salem witch trials, with the sole purpose of home entertainment through education. To be particular, The Crucible does undoubtedly use a fairly precise overview of the Salem witch trials. The setting, the names of characters, and the basic events of the Salem witch trials can all be directly compared with a history book pertaining to the period. Miller himself declared that he did not approach the topic of witchcraft from simply social or political reasons (Miller, Why I Wrote). Yet, upon mindful examination, the historical aspect of the play is exposed as extremely flawed. Significant characters, exaggerations, and changes to the social requirements were dropped, changed, or brought to life (Burns). Although these modifications may not appear to a lot of readers, Miller’s purpose in changing these events should be analyzed.

For the Broadway audiences of Miller’s day, The Crucible utilized history to highlight, to inform, and most of all, to slam. Today, however, most who read Miller’s The Crucible read it for its creative worth. As a “timeless” modern-day American play, The Crucible is now analyzed for its ability to stress, enlighten, and slam, but what it criticizes has become increasingly more doubtful with the death of years. Rather than see The Crucible as a severely produced history lesson (as did the initial audiences of the first production), one now need to in fact go through a history lesson to comprehend exactly what went on behind the witch burnings and false accusations. To do so, one must examine the story behind Miller and the history behind him, also.

The transition from World War II to the Cold War was a time of terrific stress. The United States had actually grudgingly consented to team up with a distinctly Communist Russia for the sake of winning the war, and signed away control of Eastern Europe in the Treaty of Yalta. This was when the United States was clearly an exceptional country whether through propaganda or through stats. Five years later on, however, the tables had actually turned. What was as soon as a strong Communist Russia had suddenly splintered into a number of various factions that were gaining political strength throughout the world. This, combined with the clear and concise message of world dominance sent by Communist groups, sent the United States into an outcry. The Berlin Airdrop blatantly showed that Soviet Russia was out to screw up the efforts of Democracy. Additionally, the Korean War showed that the spread of Communism was a really possible situation. What tripped the wire for the American public, however, was McCarthy’s speech at Wheeling, West Virginia, which prompted the infamous duration of McCarthyism and the Second Red Scare.

McCarthyism was initially avoided in the United States. Senator McCarthy’s claim of having a list of 205 hidden Communists in the federal government was rapidly withdrawn, and the fact that the list was faulty details was quickly openly known. Yet, slowly, he gained power. His discovering of the couple of real representatives that he had come across provided him the power to publically scrutinize nearly any authorities he wished to put under the eye of Your house of Un-American Activities Committee, ensuring that the person in question would lose power and stature. The persecution of real Communist agents elsewhere, such as the extremely advertised and extremely troubling case of the Rosenbergs, offered even more power to McCarthy and those who supported him (Broudin). Individuals stated to be Communists were blacklisted from working ever again. Performers in Hollywood, writers, songwriters, and directors were attempted in court if it was identified that they had ever revealed an opinion that ran contrary to the federal government’s. As Miller kept in mind,” [t] he Red hunt, led by the House Committee on Un-American Activities and by McCarthy, was ending up being the controling fixation of the American mind” (Miller, Why I Composed). As the variety of common Americans being blacklisted grew, the general public become increasingly more worried. On the other hand, authors, playwrights, and others in the arts who were prosecuted looked for to speak out against McCarthy’s typically prohibited practices in subtle ways.

“The more I read into the Salem panic, the more it touched off corresponding images of common experiences in the fifties: the old friend of a blacklisted individual crossing the street to avoid being seen talking to him; the overnight conversions of former leftists into born-again patriots” (Miller, Why I Composed). It comes as not a surprise that when Miller composed The Crucible it came as “an act of desperation” (Miller, Why I Composed). While seemingly a simple historical event brought to the stage due to its sheer capability to be significant, Miller laces The Crucible with excessive dry humor, sarcasm, and a great dosage of sheer idiosyncrasy – together with many direct recommendations to Communism and the “present day.” Starting with the Overture, Miller points out that” [n] o one can actually know what [the Salemites’] lives resembled. They had no novelists” (Miller, The Crucible). Through this statement, Miller conveys that a person, The Crucible is not always accurate, and two, that novelists write history. Basically, Miller is specifying that he is writing of history in the making. Naturally, not many modern occasions fit the classification of witch-hunts. In truth, in Reverend Hales’s prolonged intro – which has little to do with Hale himself – explains about an analogy between Communists and Capitalists, and the Church and the Devil’s will. Together with using an extremely conspicuous double entendre with the phrase “Red hell,” Miller discusses that “Sex, sin, and the Devil were early connected, [there still] are today” (Miller, The Crucible). He then goes on to compare the Devil to Communist Russians, effectively insinuating that whatever from another location bad in his society was thought about to be affiliated with the Communists. Throughout the book, we see characters such as Putnam make the most of the scenario for their own gain, although they recognize the witch trials are unjust, simply as the “far best [s were] licking up all the cream” from the Communist trials (Miller, Why I Wrote). The parallels in between The Crucible and the real world are undeniable.

4 years after The Crucible was initially put into production on the Broadway phases, the inescapable happened. Miller was put on trial in the courts of your home of Un-American Activities Committee, and, due to his objection to call Communists, was found guilty for contempt of Congress. This was, obviously, rescinded by the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1958 (Broudin). By this time, the McCarthyistic approaches of rooting out Communists and the 2nd Red Scare were coming to an end. Nevertheless, even though the Red Scare and Communist “witch hunts” were over, The Crucible stayed a hit among the worldwide community. The Chinese began production in retaliation with the craze induced by the Cultural Revolution, and even all these years later on, with the revolutions and social changes around the globe stabilizing, The Crucible stays a considerable play, and the factor is simple. While the themes behind The Crucible are universal, the contemporary events of his day (the Red Scare, McCarthyism, and so on) led Miller to realize that the hysteria and mob mindset of the Communist trials in his time were not only a direct hazard to the typical American resident’s rights, however to the minds of man, and to man’s capability to chose his own actions without worry of retaliation or regret by association. Sadly, such occasions are bound to take place once again, given the selfish nature of mankind and man’s need to advance his/her own agenda. Undoubtedly, one should take Miller’s words to heart lest such atrocities occur once again, and the burden rests on the shoulders of every man and woman, for it is our duty to speak out for what is right, not for what is most advantageous to our own self-centered needs.

Citation

Broudin, Jean-Christophe. “Why did Arthur Miller write The Crucible?.” 29 Mar 1999. 6 Oct 2006 <

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