The Crucible

As christians in the 21st centuary what can we learn from miller's play, both regarding the witch hunts of 17th century and witch hunts for communists in 1950?

purpose of the whole play

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Miller uses Abigail in the play to symbolize the hysteria surrounding the Salem Witch trials. Abigail is similar to Joseph McCarthy, a senator who started McCarthyism. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, America was overwhelmed with concerns about the threat of Communism growing in Eastern Europe and China. McCarthy began to accuse people of being Communists in order to increase his own political standing. He accused hundreds of people of being Communists or related to Communism. People who refused to testify before a court were being sentenced in jail and and were convicted of contempt. Many people lost their jobs or went to jail. Arthur Miller was one of those accused people and he wrote the play to get the message about McCarthyism.


Except for the fact that he wanted to, I can only suggest the one obvious reason. He wrote it during the McCarty era when he thought that Joe McCarthy was on a communist witchhunt that was enveloping many in Hollywood. Recent evidence has indicated that it wasn't as much a witchhunt as was thought at the time, but that is another topic. Miller highlighted the dangers of the McCarthy hunt by writing a play about the "original" witchhunt in America. By showing what paranoia could do in their time, he hoped to illustrate what could happen in his own time.

He also wrote an adaptation of Ibsen's "An Enemy of the People" at around the same time. This play has a similar theme ... how the "masses" oppose the heroic individual when they stand to lose something were they to agree with his position.


One of the reasons that Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible was because he was trying to inform the public consciousness through theater. He was trying to educate the population about social responsibility, conflict and injustice.

He was inspired by the events of the day, the McCarthy era, but he had a passion for creating characters who wrestle with personal conflict, passion and past mistakes.

He writes to highlight the experience of the common man who, when his name, his sense of dignity is destroyed, the tragedy that tears apart John Proctor, also elevates him.

Arthur Miller writes to celebrate the tenacity of the human spirit, to honor it, to revere it.

Arthur Miller speaks in the voice of the common man, about the injustices that befall him, about the tragic circumstances that sometimes engulf him, about the compassion and capacity of the human heart to rise above the most difficult of circumstances.


One of the main things that the audience/reader is faced with is the power of fear. Fear can lead normally good people to do horrific acts, especially if religion is involved. Let's start with the girls. They were caught dancing in the woods with Tituba. According to the Puritan beliefs, dancing is a sin and the work of the devil. The girls knew what punishment they would face (whipping, being put in the stocks, public ridicule/scorn), so they followed Abigail's lead and said that they'd been possessed by a devil. Abigail took it further, though, to use it to her advantage. She bagan to claim that certain people cast spells on her to make her do "bad things". When the trials started, Abigail became the star "witness" and pointed fingers at anyone who got in the way of what she wanted. That included Elizabeth Proctor (the wife of Abigail's former lover, John Proctor). What began as acting out of fear to avoid punishment became a powerful tool of revenge for Abigail. As for the people of Salem, their reaction to the girls' accusations was to rid their town of the devil's influence. They became fearful of one another and began to point fingers at each other, blaming innocent people for things that simply went wrong in their lives. They began to claim that misfortune was the act of the devil, and so they hanged people to rid themselves of his influence.