The Crucible: An Allegory For Mccarthyism
Under such a repressive system, citizens will rebel; and in most cases their insubordination is justified. It is this thin line which suggests that theatre indeed walks a knifes edge between both upholding ideological conformity and resisting it.
McCarthyism is the name associated with the period of American history in which Senator Joseph McCarthy carried out a series of investigations during the 1950’s with hope to expose the infiltration of communist activists. The hugely publicized allegations left the accused with both a defamation of character and reputation regardless of the unsubstantiated basis on which they were charged. Miller too, refusing to name suspected communists, earned himself a conviction for contempt of court due to his defiance of McCarthyism. Thus the inspiration behind The Crucible is seemingly rooted within the political climate of 1950’s America as the witch hunt mirrors the paranoid inquiries into suspected communist infiltrators. Oppressive anti-Communism propelled the US into a vitriolic search for Red sympathisers. Synonymous with the accused witches of Salem, those suspected were encouraged to confess and identify other communists as a means of avoiding blacklisting or in Salem’s case, death. In attempt to spare their integrity, many cooperated, falsely confessing and condemning innocent neighbours which allowed capitalism to perpetuate a heightened frenzy of hysteria.
Robert Murray suggests that ‘Continued insistence upon ideological conformity…public intolerance towards aliens…were but a few of the more important legacies left by the Red Scare’. Acknowledging the imposed ideological conformity to a capitalist culture Miller observed that American citizens were living in fear of the consequences administered by The House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). It is these alleged confessions along with the unjust ostracization of innocent people that framed the action within The Crucible as Miller attempts to portray to the audience the dangers of imposed ideologies. Broadcast journalist and war correspondent Edward. R Murrow suggested in his ongoing attack on McCarthy, ‘No one man can terrorize a whole nation unless we are all his accomplices’. And it is in correspondence with this idea that Miller uses theatre as an art form to assimilate the mass hysteria and mob mentality of the Salem witch trials to the manipulated persecution of innocent citizens within his own society. Allowing religious ideology to emerge dominant, Miller endorses the power of ideology and theatrically walks a knife’s edge between the latter while simultaneously exposing those in power as favouring the execution of the innocent over considering the authority of their court. Successfully, he creates a compelling and applicable depiction of how intolerance and hysteria can destroy a cohesive society.
To an extent The Crucible maintains conformity to strict gender roles that comply with society’s expectations, this is made apparent particularly through the character of Elizabeth Procter who, endowed as the housewife and child bearer, personifies the pious and meek wife practised by women of the period. ‘I cannot think the Devil may own a women’s soul, Mr Hale, when she keeps an upright way, as I have. I am a good woman, I know it’, Even when questioned by court officials on the character of her husband, Elizabeth breaks oath and lies with good intention to preserve John’s name,
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