What is the main purpose of The Crucible?

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The main purpose of The Crucible is to draw parallels between the events of the Salem witch craze and what was happening in America at the time of the play's writing, during McCarthyism. Miller wants to show his audience that the kind of mass hysteria that existed in the seventeenth century is still possible in supposedly more enlightened times.

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Many Americans during the mid-twentieth century probably thought that the terrifying events of the Salem witch trials were a distant memory, a footnote of history—something that could never happen again. And yet, by drawing a clear parallel between what happened in Salem and McCarthyism, which was in full swing when Miller wrote The Crucible, the playwright hoped to shake Americans out of their complacency and get them to see that history was repeating itself right before their eyes.

McCarthyism refers to the widespread investigation and persecution of alleged communists that took place after Senator Joseph McCarthy falsely claimed that communists had infiltrated the federal government. Though McCarthyism may have been an ideological rather than a religious crusade, there was certainly a quasi-religious zeal in it. This fanatical campaign against communism was characterized by its participants as a struggle between good and evil, and that's precisely what the Salem witch trials were believed to be by their no-less-fanatical adherents.

In both cases, the end product was the same: the ruination of the lives and reputations of innocent people. Arthur Miller was not a religious man by any means, and his purpose in writing The Crucible was to remind us that mass hysteria doesn't require a deeply religious or unenlightened society in order to take root. Fanaticism, and the mass hysteria to which it frequently gives rise, can just as easily develop in societies—like the US in the 1950s—that regard themselves as thoroughly modern and forward-thinking.

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What is the purpose of Miller's The Crucible?

The primary purpose of Miller's The Crucible is to warn Americans of the dangers of McCarthyism, with its persecution of innocent people on trumped-up charges.

It is not a matter of controversy to say that The Crucible is a political allegory for the anti-communist witch hunts that dominated and disfigured American public life in the first half of the 1950s.

Like many people in the United States at that time, Arthur Miller was concerned by the anti-communist hysteria, and this undoubtedly inspired him to write The Crucible. Miller saw disturbing parallels between the mass hysteria, injustice, and wholesale destruction of innocent lives that were a hallmark of McCarthyism, and the similar characteristics of the Salem witch hunts of the seventeenth century.

The action of the play may be set in a different time and a different place, but there's no doubt that Miller's main target is the debased political culture of 1950s America, with its groundless obsession with rooting out those deemed to have the slightest sympathy with any form of progressive politics.

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