American History and the Crucible by Arthur Miller

During the Red Scare of the 1940r’s – 1950r’s, hundreds of innocent Americans were accused of being either communists or communist sympathizers. Much like in The Crucible by Arthur Miller, people of these eras were accused and convicted with little or no evidence at all. During the time of the Red Scare this was called McCarthyism. It was named after Joseph McCarthy, who was a Wisconsin Senator, after he accused countless government officials of being communist spies. These accused politicians and citizens were then wrongfully accused just as witches were accused during the Salem Witch Trials.

Today America is mostly astounded and ashamed of both the Salem Witch Trials and the era of McCarthyism. Both events cost countless innocent people their lives, jobs, reputations, and more. If you were accused of being a communist you had two choices, confess to your crimes and name other communists or you could deny the accusation and eventually be blacklisted. This meant that no matter what you did your reputation would be destroyed. If you sold people out and confess, then no one would want to be around a communist snitch. If you denied that you were a communist then you would most likely be blacklisted and the no one would associate with you. This was much like the trials in The Crucible in that you could either deny the charges and most likely be hanged, or you could confess and have your reputation destroyed. Both of these choices were exhibited by many characters throughout The Crucible. For example, it is heard that many unnamed people have confessed to witchcraft and have been sentenced to jail time. In doing so they saved their own lives. However, John Proctor refuses to let his name be dragged through the mud and tears up his confession. He allowed himself to be hung as an example to everyone else in what the court would do to an innocent man.

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Arthur Miller, author of The Crucible, wanted to show how dark times like these in history are. He wanted the people to realize just what happens to innocent people, like John Proctor, when falsely accused. It can destroy anyoner’s life and reputation, and all it takes is one person that has something to gain. Arthur never wants something like these events to happen again. No one ever wants to be accused of something. Especially when they know they are innocent. There are studies that show that about 1% – 2% of people currently incarcerated are innocent. That doesnt seem like much but when it is realized that the number translates to about 20,000 people, it is a major eye opener. People that have been wrongfully convicted often lose everything. Friends, family, jobs, and so much more is lost due to an act they did not commit. He believed that this issue needed to be addressed in a way that the public would recognize. Using the Salem Witch Trials as an Allegory for the Red Scare opened peopler’s eyes to what was really going on in America.

Throughout the Crucible we see multiple people that realize what was truly going on. It all started with Rebecca Nurse. When she went to take a look at the girls she knew immediately what was going on. Even still, no one believed her when she said that it was all an act. Eventually, Rev. Hale also realizes what is happening, but he is too late. By the time he realizes that the girls were lying countless people have already been sentenced or killed. Rev. Hale then pleads with people to confess in an attempt to stop the court. This act was much like an act made against Joseph McCarthy. During a Senate hearing, lawyer Joseph Welch went completely berserk on McCarthy. He called him out for being a liar in his famous words, Have you no sense of decency! The rest of the Senate then realized what was truly going on and that incident caused McCarthy to not be re-elected. Joseph Welch was then praised as a hero for finally stopping him.

American history has had some embarrassing moments. We killed innocents in the Salem Witch Trials and ruined lives in the Red Scare. Arthur Miller opened Americar’s eyes to what actually happens in events like these, where innocent people are accused and found guilty. He wanted to make sure that an event such as these never again happens in the history of this country. He shows that accusing a citizen with no evidence almost never works out in the accused personr’s favor. All any of it does is sully their name and reputation.

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