The Crucible by Arthur Miller: Example of Human Manipulation

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The Red Scare is a way of referring to the fear that Americans suffered due to the rise of communism. It was divided into two phases, the first one took place during the Revolution of 1917; and the second Red Scare occurred at the beginning of the Cold War, in 1947. The last scare caused many Americans people to be accused of being communists and leaking information to the Russian government, many of them were wrongfully sentenced.

Unfortunately, it was not the first time that these types of accusations occured, and for this reason we must go back to the witchcraft trials in Salem. Thus, Arthur Miller decided to capture this relation into his 1953 play “The Crucible”.

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First of all, the play “The Crucible” is related with the second Red Scare because Arthur Miller was suffering that persecution in the first person, and therefore he tried to compare the suffering of the people accused of witchcraft in Salem with those accused of communist espionage. In other words, the play is a personal criticism against the Red Scare, but above all against Joseph McCarthy and his anti-communist policy, McCarthyism.

McCarthy was the personification of witchcraft trials, since he was the only person who could choose whether a person was guilty or innocent, but many of these trials were not fair because there were no evidences that the accused were spying on their own country.

Moreover, a clear metaphor in this play is the relation between capitalism and god. Puritan church was afraid of the rejection of god in the 17th century (e.g., John and Abigail do not attend church), just as 20th American society was afraid of the rise of communism (the Rosenbergs’ execution, due to their betrayal of the american government). In other words, if you betray the church (the government), you betray God (United States).

In particular, betrayal is one of the main themes in the play. People in Salem used to accuse each other just for interest and thinking about their own benefits, that is why nobody trusted anyone anymore. Therefore, this is also represented in the Red Scare, since Americans thought only for themselves and capitalism. In addition, many accused people confessed or treacherously pointed out other innocent people to avoid being sentenced to death. This idea of betrayal is perfectly reflected in the following quote:

“If you will have it so, so I will tell it!… I say I will!… If you can still hear, hear this! Can you hear!… You will tell the court you are blind to spirits; you cannot see them any more, and you will never cry witchery again, or I will make you famous for the whore you are!”. It is said by John Proctor and it represents how he is trying to blackmail Abigail about her defense at trial, or John will have no choice but to tell the truth about their previous adulterous relationship, even though that confession may affect his reputation and the honor of his family.

As can be seen, people were easily manipulated by the church and the government. The government’s priority was having its population controlled and it was believed that if you did not obey the rules designed by them you were a betrayer or, even worse, a traitor of your own country and system, so you will be sentenced to death. However, the truth is that it was much more than a question of supporting your country’s capitalism or behaving according to Puritanism, rather it was a question of fear, fear of communism, of common people thinking differently. They were spreading the message: you must do and say what we want you to, and if you refuse to it you will be punished accordingly; it was the only one chance of salvation. 

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