The Crucible: An Allegory for the McCarthy Era Essay
659 Words3 Pages
The Crucible was written as an allegory for the McCarthy era in 1953 by Arthur Miller; an American playwright. The McCarthy era was epitomized by the fear of Communism that Senator McCarthy whipped up. He fostered a witch hunt against anyone who disagreed with his views. Miller’s intention was that the play would be a parody of his own context (himself) with John Proctor quite evidently being a reflection of Miller. The witches in the play symbolized communism. A ‘Crucible’ can mean both; "a container for melting or purifying metals by heat" and "a severe test." Miller describes the village of Salem as ‘the container’ and its contents; the God-fearing residents of Salem along with their emotions. This ‘purification process’ is exactly what…show more content…
John Proctor’s affair affects his conscience and therefore influences his character. “He blushes for his sin”. Arthur Miller is concerned with the question of conscience being an organic part of an individual or a collective conscience of a community. The conscience of the court is repressive and hypocritical and John Proctor rejects it in favour if his own vision of a decent personal conduct.
Playing a major part in the play, fear is the main reason why the village of Salem dealt with the witchcraft accusations so badly. During the ‘trials’ in Salem no evidence was actually found to convict anyone of committing witchcraft. Alternatively, the word of a group of young girls was taken as the truth because people did not dare to question those who had ‘encountered the devil’. It was their fear that prevented them from doing so. Furthermore, John Proctor lives in fear; of Abigail Williams. His is forever under apprehension that she could taint his good name after his affair with her.
In the Crucible, the centre of evil is Abigail Williams the niece of Parris. She has an affair with John Proctor while working for the Proctors, lies many times and seems to take pleasure in people being sent to hang. All those Abigail accuses are innocent, yet she manipulates many into believing her actions are good.
The Crucible was set in Salem, Massachusetts in the United States of America. The play is based upon the Salem with trials of the late
Other Significant Symbols
To help better understand some of the deeper meanings in The Crucible, below are a list of significant symbols found within the play.
The Doll: The doll found on Elizabeth Proctor's shelf is a traditional symbol of voodoo and witchcraft. In The Crucible, the doll (as well as Rebecca Nurse) symbolizes the transformation of good to evil: dolls, in a normal society, represent childhood innocence and bring happiness. In Salem, dolls represent evil. This extends to the Puritan government and church, both being entrusted to protect its citizens, yet both doing the opposite.
The Stones: Giles Corey refuses to make an official plea in court. In order to persuade him to make a plea, officials of the court stack concrete stones on him and eventually crush him. The stones symbolize the weight of Salem's sins that are crushing the good in its society.
Elizabeth Proctor's Pregnancy: Elizabeth's execution is stalled on account of her pregnancy. This represents hope that the future may be different.
The Boiling Cauldron: The controversy begins with Salem girls running wild through the forest around a cauldron of boiling water. This cauldron symbolizes the wildness of the girls, or more specifically, their repressed sexual desire bubbling over.
John Proctor's Leaving the Courtroom: This occurs in the movie. After Proctor is accused of witchcraft, he runs into a small pond and with arms spread shouts, "God is dead." Proctor is in water, symbolic of baptism, and his arms are spread, symbolic of the Biblical Christ on the cross. Proctor sacrifices himself for the good of Salem and to honor those saints (Rebecca and Martha) who refuse to lie.
The Witch Trials: In addition to the similarities between McCarthyism and The Crucible already discussed, the trials symbolize the effect of intolerance, extremism, and hatred.
The Forest: Puritans believed that the forest was the devil's dominion. They failed to recognize, however, that Salem's evil and destruction came from within. The forest, therefore symbolizes the evil present in all humans.