In The Crucible, how does Arthur Miller use allegory to represent what happened during McCarthyism?

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Chase Burns eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Crucible, Arthur Miller stages a subversive play about the Salem witch trials that mirrors the events that occurred during McCarthyism. The literal play features famous characters like John Proctor, Revered Hale, Revered Paris and Judge Danforth. These characters play out an ideological conflict that revolves around themes of hysteria, power, liberalism and faith. These themes were directly occurring in the political landscape during McCarthyism, which was concerned with a Communist threat. McCarthyism instilled a hysteria in the American public that suggested American artists, politicians and thinkers had turned Communist. This "threat" was imagined and created to shift power in politics, much like the witch threat in Salem. Ultimately, Arthur Miller used the extended allegory of the Salem witch trials to expose the flagrant misuse of power that was used by certain American politicians to stir up hysteria to harm their political rivals. A similar event occurred in recent American politics, with conservative politicians claiming that many of their rivals were "socialists" even when that label wasn't accurate. "Socialist" and "communist" became dirty words, much like "witch." Miller was aware of this and used the allegory to get past censors and critique the American political system.