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"How can a work of art or literature bring about change in the world?"  I have a...

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keixss501 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 15, 2012 at 8:25 PM via web

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"How can a work of art or literature bring about change in the world?"

 

I have a "Socratic Seminar" Exam soon..

and I am confused with this question

and it needs to relate to The Crucible by Arthur Miller.

For the ppl that give me a hand->>Thanks a lot:)

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lsumner | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted November 15, 2012 at 10:42 PM (Answer #1)

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The Crucible is a literary selection that brings about change in its readers. Although Miller wrote about the Salem Witch Trials, he used his message to present events that were going on in contemporary America. Miller was trying to shed light on McCarthyism. He writes The Crucible as an allegory to the events that were occurring in the 1950s in America. Miller's reference to the Salem Witch Trials was an attempt to alert the reader as to the dangers involved when hysterical false accusations placed innocent people in danger.

During the Salem Witch Trials, nineteen innocent people were hanged and one person was pressed to death by stones. The Crucible depicts a time in history when dignified court officials were influenced by children who cried witchcraft: 

Miller's play employs these historical events to criticize the moments in humankind's history when reason and fact became clouded by irrational fears and the desire to place the blame for society's problems on others. Dealing with elements such as false accusations, manifestations of mass hysteria, and rumor-mongering, The Crucible is seen by many as more of a commentary on "McCarthyism'' than the actual Salem trials.

Truly, Miller's play showed his readers how dangerous it is to accuse others with no evidence to back accusations. During the 1950s, an 
American senator, Joe McCarthy, was accusing certain people of displaying Communist sympathies and connections. McCarthyism was the result. Using The Crucible, Miller shared an alarming message. History could repeat itself. Due to McCarthyism, there was a communist scare among the government leaders of America. Miller was wise in writing The Crucible. The play came at a time when McCarthyism became a shameful chapter in American history. It was time when "the country was thrown into a mass hysteria similar to that of the witch trials at the center of The Crucible."

Was history repeating itself was the question Miller caused his readers to consider. His play was very effective in that the readers could recognize dangerous actions that had been a part of history in the late 1600s. Mass hysteria was not only dangerous, it was deathly. 

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