How does Miller compare the Salem Witch Trials to the House Unamerican Activities Committee hearings (HUAC) in The Crucible?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There are different variations of this question that are already answered out there in the group for this work.  However, I will focus on the hearings, themselves.  Miller wants to present the fraudulent nature of both hearings.  The hearings in Salem are supposed to be governed by impartiality and the idea of being innocent until proven guilty.  Yet, in the HUAC setting and Salem, this is inverted.  In both courts, insinuation, innuendo, and rumor help to determine guilt.  This prevents individuals from receiving a fair trial and helps to ensure that confessions are forced from those accused.  The fact that so many in both the HUAC and Salem setting capitulated into making forced confessions was evidence used by those in the position of power that the hearings work, thereby increasing even more insistence of the trials' presence.  This consolidation of power for those in the position of authority was one of the results of both setting.  Miller hopes to bring out the idea that justice is challenging, not able to be simple or reductive.  Both hearings were not concerned with the complex nature of justice, but rather in the end product that bolstered the credibility of those in the position of power.

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

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For both the Salem Witch Trials and the HUAC, the enemy was indistinguishable by sight, and this created a level of hysteria that other types of "crimes" wouldn't necessarily have done. A witch could not be identified just by looking at her, and neither could a communist; therefore, the testimony of the accuser was the number one most important piece of evidence against the accused.

Also, during the witch trials and the HUAC hearings, anyone who confessed was also expected to "name names" or else their testimony was not seen as credible: If you are a witch, then you must see other witches with the Devil, right? If you are a communist, then surely you know others in the network of communists that poses a threat (according to Senator Joseph McCarthy) to the United States, yes?

Miller also likens the corrupt court of the witch trials to the corrupt politicians at the heart of the HUAC hearings. The court accepted "spectral evidence," which could easily be fabricated since only the accuser would be able to see the witch's specter. In both cases, it seems like those in charge cared more about cementing their credibility and reputations rather than actually rooting out some true threat to the community.

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