The Crucibleis related to modern times because even though it takes place in the seventeenth century, it describes a pattern of behavior we still see in moral panics today—namely, the potential for fear to become hysteria and end in tragedy. Set during the Salem witch trials (1692–1693), The...
The Crucible is related to modern times because even though it takes place in the seventeenth century, it describes a pattern of behavior we still see in moral panics today—namely, the potential for fear to become hysteria and end in tragedy. Set during the Salem witch trials (1692–1693), The Crucible's message was very relevant when it premiered during America's Second Red Scare, and its message remains relevant even now.
In The Crucible, a group of Salem girls falsely accuse others of practicing witchcraft to avoid getting in trouble for dancing in the woods. Due to the Puritans' deep fear of the supernatural, their accusations are taken as fact, and an atmosphere of irrational fear and paranoia descends upon the town. In this environment, a mere accusation is essentially a guilty conviction, as accused individuals are imprisoned and found guilty without proper evidence or a reasonable trial. In the end, nineteen people lost their lives, and dozens more were placed under arrest.
Miller's intention in writing this play was to show that what happened in Salem could happen anywhere—in particular, he wanted audiences to see the parallels between the Salem witch hunts and the US government's crackdown on communism in the 1950s, which was happening when Miller wrote the play. Using The Crucible as an allegory, Miller aimed to show that the government's search for and persecution of alleged communists—including Miller himself—was just another type of witch hunt.
Though Miller's allegory was aimed at critiquing the Second Red Scare, the lessons of The Crucible can be applied to any place or era because Miller's critique is focused on human nature itself. The play shows us that fear and groupthink can lead to moral panics, in which normally rational people do or believe irrational things. The play also suggests that this fear makes people vulnerable to cynical individuals who will exploit mass hysteria to serve their own purposes. The US has experienced numerous moral panics since the Second Red Scare, demonstrating the continued relevance of The Crucible's message.