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Jose Pedro Peredo Vera

Ms. Messervey
English 12
March 9, 2016

Symbolism in The Crucible by Arthur Miller


Many literary works have been produced that symbolize other periods of time or
certain events that have occurred throughout history. One example is the play
The Crucible by Arthur Miller. There is little symbolism within The Crucible,
however, the play can be seen as symbolic of the paranoia about Communism
that pervaded American in the 1950s. Several similarities exist between Millers
depiction of the seventeenth-century witch trials and the time of the Red Scare.
The House of the Un-American Activities Committees rooting of suspected
communisms during the Red Scare and the courts actions in The Crucible are
very similar. Both were narrow-minded, displayed excessive enthusiasm and
disregard for the individuals that characterized the governments effort to stamp
out a perceived social illness.

During the setting of the Red Scare and The Crucible, paranoia was evident and
many bad things occurred as a result of its presence. At the time of the Red
Scare, many were afraid that communists were trying to take over America. This
led the government to make the House of the Un-American Activities Committee,
which would seek out communists and stop them from making any attempts of
taking over the country. If the committee found anyone guilty of being a
communist then they were jailed, or even killed like Ethel and Julius Rosenburg.
The paranoia created caused the committee to put hundreds of people on trial

that never practice communism at all. The paranoia in The Crucible also led to
many terrible events to occur. After Betty and Ruth are struck sick and tired,
many conclude that it is due to witchcraft. The notion of witchcraft being present
in Salem causes paranoia and people become frightened. Searches are sent out
to find these alleged witches and dispose them. The paranoia causes many
people to be brought before the court in order for Salem to rid it of these evil
witches. If they were found guilty, they were also jailed or killed. In both cases,
the paranoia caused many innocent lives to be ruined or lost.

The House of the Un-American Activities Committee and Judge Danforth


prosecuted and ruined many innocent lives. The paranoia that was present
during the Red Scare caused the House of the Un-American Activities Committee
to put hundreds of suspected communists on trial. Over 320 people were jailed or
blacklisted due to the rulings of the House of the Un-American Committee. Many
of those people were innocent, but the House of the American Committee
refused to listen to whatever pleas they made in order to prove their innocence.
This is the same for the numerous citizens that were put on trial during the
seventeenth century witch hunts in Millers play. Many of the citizens Judge
Danforth put on trial were prosecuted because they were suspected of practicing
witchcraft. Many of which were innocent as well, like Rebecca Nurse and Martha
Corey. Even though they were innocent they were found guilty. Judge Danforth
also did not bother to change his rulings whenever the defendants showed good
evidence of their innocence, like when Giles Corey and Francis Nurse brought a

signed petition that stated that there their wives were not witches but were good
people. Many lives in Salem were ruined as well due to these witch trials. Many
were hanged or imprisoned due to the court rulings of Judge Danforth. Very little
could be done to save ones life.
The House of the Un-American Committee and the authority in Salem both
encouraged their defendants to name names, identifying others sympathetic to
their radical cause. The House of the Un-American Activities Committee offered
to salvage the lives of people if they would name others whom they knew were
guilty of practicing communism. The type of thing appears in The Crucible as
well. If the people would confess who they knew practiced witchcraft they might
receive a pardon. This is shown when Abigail names Tituba in order to save
herself. In both cases, many of the people would say the names of the innocent
in order to save themselves. The House of the Un-American Committee and the
court of Salem would be very appreciated of this, but it was also created more
chaos and make matters worse.

The paranoia and chaos that surfaced during the time of the Red Scare in the
1950s is also present during the time of the seventeenth century witch trials
depicted in The Crucible. The House of the Un-American Activities Committee
and the court in Salem are a lot a like. They both tried and ruined the lives of the
innocent. They also encouraged defendants to name the names of others in
order to salvage their own life, which brought about more chaos and worsened
the matter.

Works cited:
-

Miller, Arthur. The Crucible (Penguin Classics). London: Penguin Classics,


2003

History.com, Staff. (2010). Red Scare. Retrieved from


http://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/red-scare

Causes of Mass Hysteria in the 1950's." Youtube. 7 Dec. 2011. 30 May 2013

Conradt, Stacy. "The Quick 10: 10 Celebrities Named in the Communist


Scare."

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27

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<http://mentalfloss.com/article/21953/quick-10-10-celebrities-namedcommunist-scare>
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"He May Be a Communist." Youtube. 23 Mar. 2007. 26 May 2013

Hollywood

Ten.

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26

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<http://www.history.com/topics/hollywood-ten>
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"House Un-American Activities Committee." The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers


Project.

26

May

2013

<http://www.gwu.edu/~erpapers/teachinger/glossary/huac.cfm>
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Humbert, Mirko. "Examples of American Cold-War Propaganda." Designer


Daily. 14 Aug. 2009. 27 May 2013 <http://www.designer-daily.com/examplesof-american-cold-war-propaganda-2918>

"McCarthyism."

Spartacus

Educational.

24

May

<http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAmccarthyism.htm#source>
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"The Red Menace (1949)." Youtube. 25 May 2009. 25 May 2013

"The Red Scare." Youtube. 23 Mar. 2007. 25 May 2013

2013