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Introduction to The Crucible

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1 Introduction to The Crucible
Arthur Miller and Joseph McCarthy

2 Arthur Miller b. New York City, Oct. 17, 1915
Miller began writing plays while a student at the University of Michigan

3 Background of author His father, Isidore Miller, was a ladies-wear manufacturer and shopkeeper who was ruined in the depression. The sudden change in fortune had a strong influence on Miller To study journalism he entered the University of Michigan in 1934, where he won awards for playwriting

4 AM and MM Miller married the motion-picture actress Marilyn Monroe in 1956; they divorced in 1961.

5 Plays first successes--All My Sons (1947) and Death of a Salesman (1949) Miller condemned the American ideal of prosperity on the grounds that few can pursue it without making dangerous moral compromises.


7 The Cold War in America At the end of World War II, the United States and the USSR emerged as the world’s major powers. They also became involved in the Cold War, a state of hostility (short of direct military conflict) between the two nations. Many Americans feared not only Communism around the world but also disloyalty at home. Suspicion about Communist infiltration of the government A lot of Americans thought the Soviets got the atomic bomb by using spies. It was charged that secret agents, working under cover, had stolen our secrets and given them to the Enemy. Even worse, these spies supposedly were hardly ever Russians themselves, but often American citizens, the kind of people you see every day on the street and hardly even notice. a Communist could be anybody. It sort of makes a Communist sound like the bogey-man, doesn’t it? To many people in 1953, a Communist was just as scary as the bogey-man, and a lot more real.

8 (HUAC) Congress began to investigate suspicions of disloyalty. The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) sought to expose Communist influence in American life. Beginning in the late 1940s, the committee called witnesses and investigated the entertainment industry. Prominent film directors and screenwriters who refused to cooperate were imprisoned on contempt charges. As a result of the HUAC investigations, the entertainment industry blacklisted, or refused to hire, artists and writers suspected of being Communists.

9 Joseph McCarthy Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin gained power by accusing others of subversion. In February 1950, a few months after the USSR detonated its first atomic device, McCarthy claimed to have a list of 205 Communists who worked in the State Department. Although his accusations remained unsupported and a Senate committee labeled them “a fraud and a hoax,” McCarthy won a national following. Branding the Democrats as a party of treason, he denounced his political foes as “soft on Communism” and called Truman’s loyal secretary of state, Dean Acheson, the “Red Dean.”

10 McCarthyism McCarthyism came to mean false charges of disloyalty.
In September 1950, goaded by McCarthy, Congress passed the McCarran Internal Security Act, which established a Subversive Activities Control Board to monitor Communist influence in the United States.

11 McCarthy’s influence continued until 1954, when the Senate censured him for abusing his colleagues. His career collapsed. Fears of subversion continued. Communities banned books; teachers, academics, civil servants, and entertainers lost jobs; unwarranted attacks ruined lives.

12 The HUAC and Hollywood HUAC investigated communism within Hollywood, calling a number of playwrights, directors and actors known for left-wing views to testify. Some of these, including film director Elia Kazan, testified for the committee to avoid prison sentences the Hollywood Ten, a group of entertainers, refused to testify and were convicted of contempt and sentenced to up to one year in prison.

13 The Hollywood Ten These industry workers called before the HUAC to testify about their ties to communism knew they had three options. They could claim they were not and never had been members of the Communist Party (this would have meant perjuring themselves) they could admit or claim membership and then be forced to name other members (and this would have meant losing their jobs both because of their former membership and their dubious position as informers) or they could refuse to answer any questions (which is the choice they made).

14 Blacklisting Over 300 entertainers were placed on a blacklist for possible communist views and were thus forbidden to work for major Hollywood studios (many of these were writers who worked under pseudonyms). Arthur Miller was one of those blacklisted.

15 Miller admitted to the HUAC that he had attended meetings, but denied that he was a Communist.
He had attended, among others, four or five writer's meetings sponsored by the Communist Party in 1947, supported a Peace Conference at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, and signed many appeals and protests. Refusing to name others who had associated with leftist or suspected Communist groups, Miller was cited for contempt of Congress

16 Even if you had no Communism in your own past, you could easily be in the same position as Arthur Miller- you knew someone who did. That was more than enough to get you in trouble with Senator McCarthy and similar investigators. Imagine what it was like being called in to testify. McCarthy or his aides might say, “Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?” No. “Do you know anyone who is or was a Communist?” No. McCarthy holds up some cards. “We have the names of people who have already confessed.

17 Your name came up in connection with their testimony
Your name came up in connection with their testimony. Why do you suppose that is?” You say you don’t know, but you can tell that no one believes you. Maybe you’re not so innocent after all, you think. Have you signed anything, donated any money, said anything to anybody that might sound suspicious? You begin to feel guilty either way: even if you don’t have any Communist connections, you’ve done nothing to stop the spread of this evil. You did it, it’s your fault, their questions seem to say. And they won’t let you go until you make up for it in some way. So you tell them about your friend who’s never home on Tuesday nights, or anyone you know who’s been acting a little odd the last few weeks. You name names, and they let you go. And afterward no one wants anything to do with you. You were called in to testify, there had to be a reason. You must be a Communist, or at least have been working for them. You lose your friends, your job, sometimes even your family.

18 Miller wrote The Crucible not simply as a straight historical play detailing the Salem witch trials.
a good deal of the information in the play misrepresents the literal events of the trial: at the time of the trial, John Proctor was sixty years old and Abigail Williams only eleven. The play is a parable for the McCarthy era, in which similar “witch hunts” occurred targeting citizens as communists rather than disciples of the devil.

19 What does “crucible” mean?
a vessel of a very refractory material (as porcelain) used for melting and calcining a substance that requires a high degree of heat a severe test a place or situation in which concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change or development

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