• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

How effective is The Crucible's use of a 17th century context and witchcraft as a satire on 1950s McCarthyism?

Extracts from this document...


How effective is The Crucible's use of a 17th century context and witchcraft as a satire on 1950s McCarthyism? The Crucible uses fear of witchcraft in the America of the 1600s as a metaphor for the fear of communism that was widespread in America in the 1950s. Arthur Miller wished to show that the attitudes and behaviour of the villagers of Salem were as irrational and ill-founded as the attitude and behaviour of the committee chaired by Senator McCarthy. Essentially Miller uses the 17th century setting to provide critical distance between the events described and the emotions that they aroused. After three hundred years everyone understands that witchcraft was never a threat to society and we can look at the way people behaved fairly sensibly. The Crucible argues that communism is not a threat to American society, but that the irrational behaviour and injustice that fear of it causes is very dangerous indeed. The Crucible is thus an attack on the anticommunist powers within 1950s America but its setting in the 1690s allows Miller to be much more forthright than if he had written a contemporary play. ...read more.


However, as others observe the children pointing the finger of suspicion, they too start to accuse their neighbours of witchcraft as a way of taking revenge or for personal gain: "...if Jacobs hangs for a witch he forfeit up his property- that's law! And there is none but Putnam with the coin to buy so great a piece." Miller uses incidents like this as a way of showing, without too much risk to himself, that this is what the committee chaired by Senator McCarthy, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and the communist paranoia were doing - people were using it to increase their power and for revenge. The best example of this in the 50s is the Hollywood Blacklist. Celebrities of the time would accuse other celebrities of communist activities in order to prevent their own implication. Charlie Chaplain left America to avoid this, for instance, and many other artists were forced to work using 'front-men' to stay in work. Miller's main target was, of course, McCarthy as he was responsible for most of the extreme activity. ...read more.


I confess to God and God has seen my name on this! It is enough." The court's use of pressure to try to get a confession from John Proctor is Miller's way of suggesting that corrupt methods were also used to get confessions from the people accused of communism. Miller's use of a flawed hero represents a message to others who would wish to stand up against the anticommunist witch-hunt. John Proctor is an adulterer but he has enough integrity to regret his sins and even admit them in public in order to resist Abigail's power. This suggests that you do not have to be perfect to resist McCarthyism, and that it is better to admit your faults than to lose your integrity. The Crucible works effectively as a satire on McCarthyism for the reasons outlined above, but it would not be quite so effective if it didn't work as a play. It is a powerful drama with interesting characters trapped in a difficult situation, first and foremost. Otherwise we would not be reading it today after communism itself has collapsed. Miller's final point is that there are always witch-hunts when it is necessary for people to stand up against mass hysteria and moral panic ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Arthur Miller section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Arthur Miller essays

  1. Arthur Miller was inspired to write The Crucible because of what happened in America ...

    We initially see the relationship between Abigail and John as an affair formed from lust. Arthur Miller points out that if a person loves someone; they would do anything in order to get them back. In Abigail's case when the brief affair came to a halt, she thought that practising

  2. To what extent can 'The Crucible' be viewed as a Classical Tragedy?

    and then announced he would no longer work enforcing the kings justice, 'I quit this court'. After Proctor is condemned Abigail loses conviction in her power over the people in the town and flees aboard a ship. And Elizabeth Proctor, John's wife, towards the end of the play changes her

  1. The Crucible - Power and Manipulation

    a very decisive judge, and was therefore in no position to be questioned by anyone. Danforth abused and manipulated his power because he was very well aware that his decisions could not be contradicted. Danforth was convinced that he was doing his job to the best of his ability; however his best was not good enough.

  2. There is a clear parallel between the events of 1692 in Salem and the ...

    This statement shows us that in many situations like them in The Crucible, many people are scared of everything and everyone and many of them are unable to hide from the terror and the injustice, which could follow. These characteristics of such a timeless event in our history connect so

  1. The Crucible - summary.

    Miller seems to indicate that, like the rest of their Puritan society, the Proctors need an outlet to expiate John's sins and without this means for redemption they are committed to a perpetual obsession with the husband's infidelity. Two major themes emerge in the second act of The Crucible.

  2. Crucible confession

    This is where the hysteria that the play accelerates. Act 3 starts with the court hearing of another woman who has been accused like Elizabeth.

  1. 20th century drama- The Crucible

    The people in turn, feared the authorities perhaps even more than the authorities feared them. This is because they knew that if they broke any rules or overstepped ay boundaries they would be persecuted for it. A seemingly ordinary man by the name of John Proctor was found to be

  2. To what Extent is 'The Crucible' by Arthur Miller an attack on the American ...

    The extent to which the courtroom scene shows innocent characters dying but still telling the truth, is an attack on the injustice of Salem as well as of 1950's America. Because of the fact that Giles is threatening Danforth's position, he is ordered to be taken away, 'Remove that man'.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work