Why did Arthur Miller write The Crucible?

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noahvox2 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Arthur Miller is an American playwright who wrote The Crucible in 1952. Thus, the play was written on the heels of World War II, which ended in 1945, and was written during a time in which the United States was becoming increasingly concerned about the rising power of the Soviet Union. Worries that the Soviet Union's communist ways would infiltrate the United States led to a significant amount of paranoia within the American government (compare the paranoia about witchcraft in Miller's play).

Accordingly, a number of governmental committees and investigations arose. The most famous of which were those conducted by Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy, who, early in 1950, just two years before Miller's play, claimed to have a list containing the names of many communists and Soviet spies who worked for the American government.

Given the air of paranoia present in the late 1940s and early 1950s about America being infiltrated by communists, it is easy to see why Miller could comment on this societal situation by comparing it to the witch trials that occurred in America some two and a half centuries earlier. Interestingly, and perhaps not surprisingly, Miller himself became the target of one of these anti-communist investigations four years after The Crucible appeared.

Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Miller wrote his play about unwarranted persecution in response to the "Red Scare" of the 1950s, in which many artists (himself included) were accused of Communist ties or at least Communist sympathies, spearheaded by Senator Joseph McCarthy (in the play, McCarthy's role is analoguous to that of Revered Paris).  Many a career was ruined by these largely unfounded attacks.  Miller saw many parallels to the attacks of his time and the Puritan witch hunts.  He hoped that by presenting our past, the future might not continue to repeat itself. 

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The most obvious reason Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible (or anything else, really) is because he had a story to tell. Without that, he would not have been inspired to write. It is true, however, that what inspired him to write this particular story is quite personal.

As a Jewish man, Miller was a political advocate against the inequalities of race in America, and he was vocal in his support of labor and the unions. Because he was such an outspoken critic in these two areas, he was a prime target for Senator Joseph McCarthy and others who were on a mission to rid the country of Communism.

Miller was called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities because of his connections to these issues but refused to condemn any of his friends. This experience, a rather blind and sweeping condemnation of anything even remotely connected to Communism without sufficient (or any) evidence, is what prompted him to write about the Salem Witch trials. 

In a later interview, Miller said the following:

It would probably never have occurred to me to write a play about the Salem witch trials of 1692 had I not seen some astonishing correspondences with that calamity in the America of the late 40s and early 50s. My basic need was to respond to a phenomenon which, with only small exaggeration, one could say paralysed a whole generation and in a short time dried up the habits of trust and toleration in public discourse.

However, the more he began to study the tragic events in Salem, the more he understood that McCarthy's hunt for Communists was nothing compared to the fanaticism which reigned in Salem in the 1690s.

In time to come, the notion of equating the red-hunt with the witch-hunt would be condemned as a deception. There were communists and there never were witches. The deeper I moved into the 1690s, the further away drifted the America of the 50s, and, rather than the appeal of analogy, I found something different to draw my curiosity and excitement.

Anyone standing up in the Salem of 1692 and denying that witches existed would have faced immediate arrest, the hardest interrogation and possibly the rope. Every authority not only confirmed the existence of witches but never questioned the necessity of executing them. It became obvious that to dismiss witchcraft was to forgo any understanding of how it came to pass that tens of thousands had been murdered as witches in Europe. To dismiss any relation between that episode and the hunt for subversives was to shut down an insight into not only the similar emotions but also the identical practices of both officials and victims.

In his note about the historical accuracy of the play, Miller writes:

I believe that the reader will discover here the essential nature of one of the strangest and most awful chapters in human history.

Though his interest in the comparisons between the trials and McCarthyism began with his own experience, it was the horrific nature of the trials themselves which motivated Miller to write The Crucible

Here's a great interview with Arthur Miller about why he wrote the Crucible and its parallels to modern life:

crystaltu001 | Student

The crucible told real events from what happened during the Salem witch trials In Massachusetts. The book was to tell how many people and children were accused during that time. The characters in the story go through the same tragedies and sentences as the people during that time. 

zumba96 | Student

I think his main purpose was to portray what was happening at this time with the Red Scare. The US was paranoid about communism and its growing threat and others randomly accusing others of being communist. 

derekchao1 | Student

because he wanted to portray the salem witchcraft trials as nonsense and it is a caution to us

xenastor | Student

The Crucible is based on the Salem Witch Trials which is a direct parrallel to what was going on during the time of which he wrote the book (The McCarthy Trials). Also, the love affair between John Procotor and Abigail Williams represent the love affair that Arthur Miller had with Marilyn Monroe.

daisyhillsfinest | Student

Arthur Miller wrote the Crucible to highlight what was going on in many parts of the world in 1962, how the people felt and what was happening to those who were convicted. this links into the Mcarth trials.

how do you decide whos guilty in the court, the book was a debate on the ruling of the court in a time were many people were being accused, by children, and as in that time, children were beleived more than adults, as they were seen as gods holy children.

Salem was a Protestant place with lots of armish residents.

ejs4281 | Student

he wrote the book after he was convoked to a meeting of the HUAC house un-american activities committee were he was asked to tell the committee who was involved in communism or nazi. as he was a director and also a writer he knew lots of actors( people in the film industry) and then surged the hollywood black list. he refused and then he thought that history was just repeating itself. he thought of the witch hunt in about 1930 were they used to hang and burn woman for witchcraft. so then he decided to write the crucible. crucible meaning cross for as the christian religion. people blaming themselves, convocations and death just reminded him of the witch hunt back in the US in about 1930's

if u search the HUAC you'll see they were similar to the judges in the crucible

dtarver1003 | Student

As an off spring of immigrants who were not only of Jewish ancestry but also of Polish descent, Arthur Miller started to feel the heat of the moment when the United States administration started a nationwide crackdown on individuals & covens that supported Communism under the direction of Sen. Joseph McCarthy. This particular phase in the history of the United States is referred to as either ‘The Red Scare’ or ‘McCarthyism’; a time when government initiated propaganda against Communism was at its zenith. The United States administration would blacklist and accuse anyone for the crime of supporting communism; with or without evidence.

The same fate befell the then thirty seven years old Arthur Miller who was condemned for disrespect & disapproval of the United States Congress for being unsuccessful in naming numerous individuals who had attended meetings with him. In a bid to not only secure his career as a journalist & play writer and also to alert the American people against the government misinformation & propaganda that were headed their way, Miller started to ink The Crucible. Using the ‘Salem Witch Trials’ of the early 1690s as a precinct, Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible. The characters in the play are faced with the same tragedies & sentences that befell people during the McCarthyism trials; he uses the ‘Salem Witch Trials’ as a metaphor to draw national attention towards the doings and executioners of the McCarthyism propaganda.

Miller's Essay on this Topic:



dbeauty | Student

The crucible as you know is based on the events that took place in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. this story is an allegory therefore events in the play are fictionalized and turned into an extended metaphor.