What are some connections from "The Crucible" to modern day America?

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auntlori's profile pic

Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The theme of believing the loudest voice or the most compelling "act" is still part of who we are.  We know that a few random allegations create the impression of a sinner or a criminal or whatever.  In this world of instant communication, even a few misspoken words can cost someone their reputation--just ask some of the politicians in recent years who have done just that and have now been branded as bigots and racists and sexists and whatever else for the rest of their lives. 

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morrol | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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One connection from "The Crucible" to modern day America is the presence of accusation in both. In the play, Abigale accused others of bewitching her so that she did not have to take responsibility for her own actions and faults. This starts a firestorm of people accusing other people of being witches. This is eerily similar to how the United States has been dealing with terrorists. Many people were "detained" or imprisoned with little to no evidence of their associations with terrorists. Those people were asked to point the finger at other people who might be terrorists in exchange for leniency. This parallels "The Crucible" almost exactly.

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e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Arthur Miller's The Crucible deals with many issues relating to social pressure, the power of hearsay, personal integrity in the face of public hypocrisy, and the costs of hubris. These ideas are, perhaps regrettably, human constants.

If we look at how Mary Warren wants to stand up to speak the truth about Abigail's deception and to save the innocent Elizabeth Proctor, we see her failure as part of the play's commentary on the power of the group to subdue individuals. This dynamic can be dangerous when the group is wrong or acting on discriminatory and/or violent misconceptions.

Bullying and taunting are common examples of how this dynamic remains part of our culture. When a bully picks on someone and no one speaks up to stop the bullying, the group can end up implicitly approving of the bullying. Sometimes others will join in and the bullying and taunting goes unchecked. If one individual had said something from the beginning, maybe the bullying would have been stopped right when it started. Other examples of this dynamic on a larger scale also perpetuate within today's society.

The costs of hubris in the play connects with Danforth and Hale as well. Reverend Hale believed that he had a full understanding of the situation in Salem. In part this is because his ego was fed and his expertise was praised when he arrived. He felt that the problem was clear and the solution was clear too. He was, as we know, mistaken. He was fooled like everyone else. The costs of his self-assurance, which was used to help condemn many people to die, becomes very clear when he finally repents and begs the court to stay its sentences. 

When the mistake becomes clear to nearly everyone, Danforth still resists. 

"Better that men die than that the court admit to error" (eNotes).

Having taken a stance, Danforth feels that the reputation and thus the integrity and power of the court would be damaged by changing course and admitting to a mistake. People die because of the pride of these men, in themselves and in the institutions that give them prestige. 

The banking/credit crisis of the 2000s stands as a great example of the costs of hubris in contemporary America. Also, the invasion of Iraq in the early 2000s was predicated on a set of assertions made by the U.S. government, many of which proved to be products of misinformation. Relying on bad information, some people in power were nonetheless overwhelmingly sure that invasion was justified. The self-assurance that created wars that were publicly said to be of a short duration ended up leading to over a decade of armed conflict that continues today. 

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