The Crucible Arthur Miller and Mc. Carthyism
Arthur Miller • Some biographical information: • Born in 1915, New York City • Worked his way through college at University of Michigan • Began career as a playwright in 1938, writing plays to be performed on the radio • Two most important plays are The Crucible and Death of a Salesman • Won Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1949 • Was briefly married to Marilyn Monroe • Testified before the HUAC in 1956 • Most popular years were the 1950 -1960 s
Mc. Carthyism: A campaign against Communists in the U. S. government and other institutions carried out under Senator Joseph Mc. Carthy. Communism: a system of government, which advocates for the elimination of private property; all individual rights are take away, and the government own everything Cold War: the state of political hostility that existed between the Soviet Union (Russia) and the United Sates from 1945 -1990
Historical Fiction The Crucible is an example of historical fiction. The main plot of the play and many of the characters are based on a true event from history, although much of the dialogue and some of the action is created by the author for effect. Components of Historical Fiction: • The author uses people and events from the past to explain or explore a situation in his current society. • Words spoken by the characters reflect the thoughts, values and concerns of the people during the specific time period. • Any historical information that may be unfamiliar to the reader is explained by the writer.
The Mc. Carthy Era • The Mc. Carthy Era was during the 1950 s, during which time thousands of Americans were accused of being a Communist. • An accusation of Communist usually brought about the assumption that one was a spy for the Soviet Union. • Those who were accused of being a Communist were blacklisted. • Blacklist: a list or persons or organizations that have brought about disapproval or suspicion and thus are isolated
The HUAC Once the accusation of Communist was rendered, a person had to testify before Congress with the House of Un-American Activities. The House of Un-American Activities, led by Senator Joseph Mc. Carthy, was a committee in Congress that investigated allegations of Communist activity
The HUAC continued… Red Scare: was the period of general fear of Communists; it was called “red” because that was the color associated with Communism. Primary targets of the Red Scare: • Government employees • Entertainment industry • Educators • Union activist
More Terms of the Mc. Carthy Era: • Hollywood 10: A group of movie producers, directors, and screenwriters who refused to answer questions and testify before Congress about Communist allegations – Once a person was blacklisted, his or her career was over, and it would be impossible to find work again • Witch Hunt: The authorities encouraging citizens to spy on one another and report any suspicious activities
Mass Hysteria is a condition in which a large group of people exhibit the same state of violent mental agitation It is this mass hysteria that was occurring during the 1950 s when Miller first wrote The Crucible. Through his work, he attempts to draw metaphors between 1950 s American and 1692 Salem, Massachusetts.
Definition of Crucible There are two main definitions of the word “crucible”: 1) A container made of a substance that can resist great heat 2) A severe test or trial The Crucible was Arthur Miller’s way of protesting the HUAC. He compared the Communist hearings to the witch hunts of Salem, where gossip, rumors and fear served as enough evidence to convict people.
Requirements of Mass Hysteria • Regional conditions must be conducive to such an episode (the forest in Salem) • Communication must spread terror (local gossip) • Social and economic stress must lead to a willingness to believe outlandish reports • A small event leads to many reports of an exaggerated nature • Outbreaks lead to breakdowns in official control, the authorities are too weak to handle the hysteria
The Proctors John Proctor is a local farmer who lives just outside of town. He is stern and very blunt with whomever he speaks. John Proctor (along with Rebecca Nurse) represents the voice of reason in the play). He is covering up the fact that he had an affair with Abigail Williams Elizabeth Proctor is John’s wife who fired Abigail when she discovered their affair. Elizabeth is very virtuous, but very cold and distant towards
The Parris Household Abigail Williams was once the servant of the Proctors. Although dismissed from their service, she still lusts after John (with whom she had an affair) and hates Elizabeth for firing her. She is very smart and a very talented liar. Reverend Parris is the minister in Salem. He is paranoid, power-hungry and very concerned about building his position in the community. Betty Parris is Reverend Parris’ ten-year-old daughter. She falls into a trance once she is caught dancing in the forest with other young girls. Her “illness” first fuels the rumor of witchcraft.
The Nurses Francis Nurse is a wealthy and influential man in Salem. He is well respected by most of the community, but he is an enemy of Thomas Putnam and his wife. Rebecca Nurse is a wise and sensible elderly lady who is held in great regard by the community. She is known for her skills in soothing most ailments.
The Putnams Thomas Putnam is a wealthy and influential citizen in Salem. He holds a grudge against Francis Nurse for preventing his brotherin-law from being elected to the office of minister. He uses the witchcraft trials to increase his own wealth Ann Putnam has given birth to eight children, but only one has survived. She is convinced that her children all died due to evil spirits Ruth Putman is their only surviving child. She was a part of the group of girls that was caught dancing in the forest.
The Coreys Giles Corey is an elderly farmer who is famous for his tendency to file lawsuits. Martha Corey: She is George’s third wife (the previous ones have all passed on). Her reading habits lead to her arrest and conviction for witchcraft
The Local Authorities Reverend John Hale is a young minister who has the reputation of being an expert on witchcraft. Even though his arrival sets the hysteria in motion, he later attempts to save the lives of those accused Judge Danforth is the deputy governor of Massachusetts; he is convinced that he is doing the right thing by ridding the colony of witches Judge Hathorne (Our buddy Nathaniel’s ancestor) is one of the judges who presides over the trials
Other Key Characters Tituba is Reverend Parris’ slave from Barbados. She teaches the girls certain tasks that are considered magic and witchcraft Mercy Lewis and Mary Warren along with Abigail Williams, Betty Parris and Ruth Putnam are the group of girls around whom so much of this hysteria is centered.