How does Arthur Miller use his play The Crucible to comment on social repression and mass hysteria?
Although Miller set this play early in Massachusetts colonial history, during the Salem witchcraft trials, it is recognized by many as being allegorical, and easily applicable to other situations, most apparently including the McCarthy trials of the 1950's, when many prominent people were accused of, and blacklisted for being, Communists. In fact, even though it was written in 1953, it was been read and performed worldwide ever since, and its themes are of particular appeal to anyone who has ever experienced directly, or indirectly, repression or sanctions for questioning authority, disagreeing with ideas, or generally refusing to go along with the status quo within society.
Miller takes the panic, rumors, and hysteria that developed in Salem and led to the executions of a number of residents and generalizes it so that it is recognizable not just in McCarthyism, but in the situation in Tianamen Square in China in 1989, in Burma where Aung San Suu Kyi was held as a political prisoner for years, and even in the United States where politicians occasionally pontificate on which party is more patriotic, suggesting at times that questioning the government indicates lack of patriotism. One need only look back just over a decade prior to the writing of Miller's play to see the allegory played out in Nazi Germany.