How Is The Crucible An Allegory

How is The Crucible by Arthur Miller an allegory?

Arthur Miller's The Crucible allegorizes the actions taken by the House Un-American Activities Committee during the 1950s as well as any other potential, figurative witch hunt. The literal witch hunt of the play, inspired by the Salem witch trials, could represent any metaphorical witch hunt, a campaign against any group that is, in some way, unorthodox or unpopular. This could be communists, people with AIDS in the 1980s, people with minority political or religious views, and so on.

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An allegory is a text that has at least two "layers" of meaning. The first layer is the literal, obvious one; in this case, it is a fictionalized telling of some of the events that took place during the Salem witch trials: a literal witch hunt. The second layer is the metaphorical, less overt one; in The Crucible, this meaning is a figurative witch hunt, or a hysterical search to identify a person or people that one fears as a threat. We fear what we do not understand, and we often scapegoat people in an effort to quell our own feelings of panic and hysteria. During the 1950s, when Miller wrote the play, the most immediate threat felt by the American public was the threat of communism, and other educators have pointed out how the play allegorizes that era. But if the play only addressed fears of that threat, how popular would it still be today? Not very, perhaps. There was also a metaphorical witch hunt during the 1980s with the AIDS crisis. Just like during the Salem witch trials, a person could not tell simply by looking at another person if they were a threat (in the 1690s, that meant being a witch, and in the 1980s, that meant having HIV), and people began to scapegoat the gay community, blaming this group for the spread of a virus that can be spread by anyone who engages in sexual contact. Hysteria and the fear of contracting the virus began to motivate people to turn on any man they thought might be gay, just like people turned on their friends and neighbors in the play.

Thus, the play does not simply allegorize the actions taken by the House Un-American Activities Committee during the early 1950s; it allegorizes any figurative witch hunt, in which people succumb to hysteria and look for scapegoats to blame for their problems or fears.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on July 13, 2020
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Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible in 1953, during the era of McCarthyism in the United States. The play, which is a fictionalized account of the Salem Witch Trials, is an allegory (or extended metaphor) about McCarthyism. During the time period of McCarthyism, which lasted approximately from 1950 to 1956 (with effects lingering afterward), Senator Joseph McCarthy began to accuse government officials and other people of being Communists. As a result, people were blacklisted and stripped of their livelihoods with very little substantiating evidence. The U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) investigated government employees, people in the entertainment industry, and others. Arthur Miller himself was called before HUAC in 1956, though he refused to answer questions about other people who had attended meetings he attended. As a result, he was found in contempt of Congress. The process of conducting a witch hunt can refer more broadly to any attempt to scare, blacklist, or otherwise harm people for their beliefs based on little evidence. It is this process, which was going on during the McCarthy era, that Miller was allegorizing in his play.

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An allegory is a literary device used to represent concretely, and using specific examples , ideals and ideas that are, of course, abstract.It is a known fact that Arthur Miller's inspiration to write this play was the outrageous witch hunt going on at the time in the 1950's U.S. Congress. People were being accused back and forth of being communists, or of sympathizing  with them. Moreover, people would be accused of high treason which carried with it a death sentence.

It was no different than what went on in Miller's play in Salem when one wayward villager decides to accuse people of dealing with the devil in the midst of their Puritanical rule. Likewise, the punishment could have included the death penalty (more so in Europe than in the US). However, Miller focused more on the aspects of the witch hunt that are universally horrid: the chase, the fear, the mounting anxieties, the betrayal and, most importantly, the worthlessness of it all when you see it from a broader perspective. How small and limited must the world of an accuser be not to see how much danger he or she is causing to the world around them

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An allegory is an extended metaphor.

The Crucible is an allegory for what happened during the "red scare" in American in the 1950's. Senator McCarthy accused many people of being part of the communist party. It is said to have been a modern-day witch hunt. The people who were accused had to admit to being communist and be blacklisted, or not admit to communism and be prosecuted. It was a no-win situation, similar to the predicament of the accused in The Crucible

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