It is no surprise, therefore, that playwright Arthur Miller and a composer on the faculty of Florida State University, Carlisle Floyd, were especially attentive to this situation. Neither story, though, is actually about Cold War America.
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Both works look back to older myths and other aspects of American history and society as the sources for their stories, and these stories contain striking similarities. This article will examine how these myths portray American culture, and how these works function as a denunciation of McCarthyism and of religious hypocrisy in general, by looking at both the libretto and some musical elements which convey the story. Miller told a fictionalized version of this event based on historical research. For those readers not familiar with the story, in the small Puritan town of Salem, Massachusetts, 19 men and women and two dogs were convicted of and hanged for witchcraft in Miller wrote his play in , and it was first performed in January, The story is a loose adaptation of the biblical tale of Susanna and the Elders, which figures in the Jewish and Catholic Bibles in the Book of Daniel, but is regarded by Protestants including Floyd, the son of a Methodist minister as Apocrypha.
The choice of the story of Susanna and the Elders was suggested to Floyd by a friend. The composer was not, therefore, initially attracted to it by background knowledge or a long-term familiarity. Instead, the story simply spoke to him as drama that contained all the right elements for a successful opera. In addition, Floyd saw in the tale of a woman falsely and viciously accused of a crime in a primitive theocratic society a parallel to the fear engendered in America by McCarthyism.
In the biblical version of the story, Susanna is a beautiful, Hebrew wife living in Babylon.
McCarthyism vs. The Crucible
Two elders of the community, who serve as its judges, begin to desire Susanna, and they become obsessed with her and lose sight of God and justice. One day, as they are spying on Susanna in her garden, she sends her servants away so she can bathe. The men take this opportunity to attempt to blackmail her, saying that if she will not sleep with them, they will condemn her to death, claiming that they caught her committing adultery in the garden with an unknown young man. The judges testify against her, and she is sentenced to death. Susanna prays, telling God that she is innocent.
In addition, the events which occurred during the Salem witch trials as demonstrated in The Crucible are quite similar to those of the McCarthy era. Accusations took place with very little evidence in both events.
John Proctor and Rebecca Nurse were well-respected people in the Salem community who were accused of witchcraft, despite their good reputations. Joseph McCarthy accused people of being communists without paying heed to whether his accusations were accurate or not. Also, Reputations were hindered in both cases. Hollywood screenwriters who were blacklisted had to work under false names. With that in mind, the themes of The Crucible can be seen in certain social issues that take place in the world today.
One of these themes is naming names, in which the accused takes the attention or blame off of themselves by calling others out. This theme can be demonstrated in the act of bullying, in which the bully can harm someone and then blame another person without anyone knowing. At the end of Act One in The Crucible, Abigail Williams, Tituba, and Betty Parris confess to witchcraft, but name names of others they had seen with the Devil in order to protect themselves.
McCarthyism Essay examples
Another theme seen in the play is that of hysteria. There was great hysteria in the Salem community with the threat of witchcraft. Today, terrorist attacks and mass shootings would obviously arouse fear in the public. In a different aspect, political correctness can bring about fear of offending someone or using the wrong word choice. Remember: This is just a sample from a fellow student.
Sorry, copying is not allowed on our website. We will occasionally send you account related emails. How did McCarthy come up with his catalog of commies? He asked everyone in Congress if he could borrow a pen. The ones who said yes were on the list.
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He had become fascinated with the environment of paranoia and how it affected society as a whole. When he stumbled upon the story of the Salem witch trials, he finally came up with a way to express those themes on stage. The Crucible was also a reaction his personal disappointment at the decision of his friend, director Elia Kazan, to name some former colleagues as communists in in front of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. He was suspected not incorrectly of possessing close ties to the American Communist Party. Miller did in fact write communist theater criticism and was a greater private supporter of communism than he portrayed himself to be at the time, but he never actually joined the party.
When he appeared before HUAC, Miller refused to name anyone else who was involved in "subversive" political activities. Because he worked mainly in theater, he didn't have to worry as much about the effects Hollywood's unforgiving blacklist policy would have on his career.
Miller was found in contempt of Congress for refusing to betray his peers, but the ruling was overturned two years later as HUAC lost power and relevance. Many professionals in the entertainment industry found themselves jobless in Hollywood after falling out of HUAC's good graces. The government's influence on movies at this time was much greater than it is today.
The abandonment of reason in the face of hysteria is a clear common theme.https://junozilajesi.cf
Colena's Corner: The Crucible vs. McCarthyism: A Comparison/Contrast Essay.
Miller writes, "There was magic all around; the politics of alien conspiracy soon dominated political discourse and bid fair to wipe out any other issue. As communist hysteria built, Miller was even more convinced that he wanted to write a play based on this form of collective insanity. He was especially fascinated by people who disagreed with the communist "witch hunt" but chose to keep their heads down and go along with it to avoid their own persecution.
He writes, "But by , when I began to think of writing about the hunt for Reds in America, I was motivated in some great part by the paralysis that had set in among many liberals who, despite their discomfort with the inquisitors' violations of civil rights, were fearful, and with good reason, of being identified as covert Communists if they should protest too strongly. For example, John Proctor hesitates to expose Abigail as a fraud because he fears repercussions from the court, and Parris is eager to turn on others to preserve his reputation. In another relevant quote, Miller writes, "The Soviet plot was the hub of a great wheel of causation ; the plot justified the crushing of all nuance, all the shadings that a realistic judgment of reality requires.
Danforth claims that there is "a moving plot to topple Christ in the country! Danforth also insists that "a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there be no road between" pg. Nuance cannot be tolerated because the people in charge feel that the stakes are too high.
Miller, however, says he viewed the analogy as perfectly sound.
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- Free Essays: The Crucible & McCarthyism?
He argues that, in the 17th century, "the existence of witches was never questioned by the loftiest minds in Europe and America" because the Bible spoke of their existence. Witches were just as real to people in the s as communists were to people in the s. He adds, "The more I read into the Salem panic, the more it touched off corresponding ages of common experiences in the fifties : the old friend of a blacklisted person crossing the street to avoid being seen talking to him; the overnight conversions of former leftists into born-again patriots; and so on.
Apparently, certain processes are universal. The Crucible has resonated across time because it expresses central truths about human nature. People will go to great lengths to avoid being ostracized by society, including, in many cases, betraying their true beliefs and selling out their friends. If patriotism is taken too far, it can transform itself into a hatred of "outsiders" rather than a love of political freedoms. This type of harmful attitude remains an issue in the US to this day. Miller closes his essay by saying, "I am not sure what The Crucible is telling people now, but I know that its paranoid center is still pumping out the same darkly attractive warning that it did in the fifties.
The fear of witches only seems archaic because most of society no longer holds serious beliefs in the supernatural.