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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Crucible is a play, not a book, by Arthur Miller. The writing of this drama was inspired by the Congressional investigations in the 1950's when Senator Joseph McCarthy went on a radical quest to uncover communist infiltration of American institutions. During these investigations, Constitutional safeguards were disregarded and many innocent people's lives were ruined as their careers were destroyed and their personal and professional reputations severely damaged. This "Red Scare" is what Miller subtly draws parallels with in his drama of the Puritans of 1692 in their hysteria of the Salem Witchcraft trials. Just as the Puritan leaders fomented hysteria, McCarthy and his committee worked upon the fears of Americans as the Soviet Union acquired nuclear power and the A bomb in 1949, and China had also become Communist in that same year.  

After these egregious investigations led by Senator Eugene McCarthy, a new term was created, McCarthyism:

McCarthyism is the practice of making accusations of subversion or treason without proper regard for evidence. It also means "the practice of making unfair allegations or using unfair investigative techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism.

This practice of playing upon the fears and emotions of the public in the making of false accusations in order to maintain control of power or restricting criticism, or even inciting action is extremely dangerous to freedom.

Probably for these reasons, the literature teacher endorses this play. For, without question, it has an important moral and political message that every citizen of a free country should be made aware. 

kardensin | Student

The Crucible is a play and in my opinion a good one with great lessons for all. The Crucible is an allegory loosely based on the events that took place during the Salem Witch Trials. It has a lot of themes like: lying and deception; greed; religion and law; guilt; reputation; and the idea that modern day witch hunts happen even today.

The Crucible is about the Puritans and the Salem Witch Trials. I feel that the Crucible is an important play for Americans especially because the Puritans are the people who were the beginning of our country in New England. They were extremely religious and there government was a theocracy. This means that their religious, Christian laws were what governed the land. They were very strict and things like dancing, music, and plays were seen as evil. They worked very hard and believed that land and wealth showed you were in God's favor.

Personally, I think their history is important to Americans because you can see that Puritanism in many ways still thrives in the US. Many would argue that work and wealth are very important to a capitalist society like the US. The play was also written during a time when a modern day witch hunt for communists was happening.

There are a lot of questions that the Crucible brings up that are important for us all to think about. Like, how does religion and law mix in our society? Is it a negative thing? Can you be an individual and a part of a society? Is our society afraid of those who are different and do not conform? What are the dangers to not conforming to society? Do we embark on modern day witch hunts today? What happens when people are forced to repressed natural emotions and desires? What would you do to avoid death? Would you lie? OR would you die for something you believed in?

Read the study guide:
The Crucible

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