What does Miller mean when he states from The Crucible, "It is a paradox in whose grip we still live?" 

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amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Miller explains that in Salem, a theocracy had formed. This means a society ruled by religious authority. He goes on to say that this combination of state (government) and religious authority was designed with good intentions. One main intention was to keep the society unified. In doing so, the authorities would need to rally the people around a set of beliefs. They would also need to abide by a set of laws. This is all well and good, but such an organizational system would necessarily involve excluding others. This is the paradox. The system was designed for unity, but it also involves exclusion. And Miller says that the exclusion has the potential to be unethical or unfounded. As he states, the authorities were too repressive in maintaining this unity by excluding ("witch-hunting") others: 

Evidently the time came in New England when the repressions of order were heavier than seemed warranted by the dangers against which the order was organized. The witch-hunt was a perverse manifestation of the panic which set in among all classes when the balance began to turn toward greater individual freedom. 

He says we are still in the grip of this paradox because he sees the same kinds of misuse of authority in his era. This play was written in 1953 when Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Committee on Un-American Activities directed a witch-hunt for communist sympathizers. During this "red scare," the committee would pressure people into naming other communists. Some people would do so in order to save themselves from persecution or even prosecution. It was actually called a witch-hunt. This paradox (of unity and exclusion) exists today in America and in other parts of the world. There are some groups and/or authorities who would like to maintain national unity by excluding immigrants. Some would like to maintain national/religious unity by excluding people based on sexuality or based on differing religious beliefs. 

Read the study guide:
The Crucible

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