What are some events in the last fifteen years that have paralleled the predicaments featured in Arthur Miller's play The Crucible?
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Another way one could look at this issue is in the more literal (as opposed to symbolic or figurative, as with Miller's commentary on the McCarthy trials) sense of a 'witch hunt' involving actual witches, i.e. those who practice the neo-pagan variety of modern witchcraft. In recent years, the religious right, mostly comprised of Southern Baptists and evangelical and pentecostal denominations of Christianity in the United States, and to some extent in Great Britain, have become very involved in trying to censor literature they think is related to paganism or witchcraft, specifically, the Harry Potter series of novels. In the 1993, a triple child homicide in West Memphis Arkansas was characterized as a "cult crime" by law enforcement officials who tried to play up ambiguous details as examples of satanic worship, partly because the main suspect practiced Wicca and named himself Damien (the same name of the child in the 1976 film The Omen, who is an incarnation of Satan). Rumors and irresponsible media stories fuelled suspicion and affected the trial's outcome, and the sensationalism of the trial was similar to the sensationalism portrayed in Miller's play in the witch trial scenes.
Very few questions posed will be as relevant as this one. Miller's work stands on its own merits as an exemplary drama and a fine work of human and social psychology. It is also of the highest caliber as a work of literature. Yet, its modern historical relevance is what allows this work to transcend into a realm of art where only a few dare to tread. Certainly, the American social setting after the September 11 attacks created a setting of mass hysteria and manipulation similar to the predicament he rendered in The Crucible. Miller's was concerned in the wake of the American government's treatment of individual rights, issues of privacy, as well as the need to "demonize" specific individuals in the name of the elusive "ideal" of "public safety." The fear of Islam, as well as the overall fear of "terrorism" and individuals who could be considered "terrorist" were very similar to the fears present in Salem. Additionally, the sacrifice of Constitutional protections against the state in the deeming of "enemy combatants," incarceration at Guantanamo Bay, as well as racial profiling were all similar to the world of Salem. One of Miller's critical arguments in The Crucible is that no society can survive the sacrifice of institutional safeguards that are meant to protect the individual's presumption of innocence. Miller saw some of these same behaviors replicated in the nation, his nation, after the attacks of September 11. Finally, similar to the Reverend Parris' of the world who sought public spotlight in the desire to "rid" the nation of terrorists and the Ezekiel Cheevers who benefited from the creation of the "war on terror," there were specific individuals responsible for and benefited from the atmosphere of fear and climate of domestic paranoia.
On a more micro level, individuals who make poor decisions in the emotional realm have acquired greater relevancy over the last 15 years. Those who have strayed outside the realm of marriage, similar to the actions of John Proctor, have been seen in multiple realm such as politics, artists, athletes, as well as other prominent individuals. While few have demonstrated the moral courage of John Proctor, many have confessed to similar indiscretions. In addition to this, the characterization of Abigail Williams has resonated in the modern setting. While it is difficult to ascertain if Miller intended for this, Miller's creation of a character who lacks proper moral, parental, and spiritual guidance and engages in accusatory and misdirected attempts at love and deception is a powerful one. Over the last fifteen years, there has been more attention given to girls and their accusations of misconduct. This is not to say that such claims are not valid, and certainly Miller would not suggest so. However, it has become increasingly present that the issue of sexuality in young girls as well as claims from young girls of indiscretion have received much attention.
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