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The Crucible: Anticipation Guide

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1 The Crucible: Anticipation Guide
A moral person can commit an immoral act and still remain moral. Many people get away with misusing their power. Fear can spread easily from person to person. It’s okay to be deceptive in a survival situation. Reputation is more important than being honest. History always repeats itself. It’s more important to stand up for what is right than to go with the crowd. Withholding the truth is the same thing as telling a lie. Gossiping is a harmless, but fun, way to pass time. Adultery is acceptable in today’s society.

2 The Crucible: Essential Questions
Is the life of an individual less important than the well-being of a society? What makes someone “honorable”? What circumstances are conducive to creating mass hysteria in society? How can society’s fear of nonconformity lead to injustice? How can peer pressure influence an individual? How can people use their power to make a difference in their lives and the lives of others? How do beliefs affect behavior? Why does history repeat itself? What can we learn from history?

3 The Crucible by Arthur Miller

4 About the Author: Arthur Miller
Born in NYC in 1915 Career as a playwright began while he was a student at the University of Michigan Married to Marilyn Monroe ( ) Several early works won awards All My Sons, 1947 Death of a Salesman, 1949 (Pulitzer Prize) Death of a Salesman was described by critics as the first great American tragedy Miller gained a reputation as a man who understood the deep essence of the United States

5 The Crucible Facts Genre: tragedy, allegory
Written in 1950s (during McCarthyism) Published: 1953 Setting: 1692, Salem, Massachusetts, Puritan New England (during the Salem Witch Trials) Protagonist: John Proctor Antagonist: Abigail Williams Plot: Strictly religious Puritan government prosecuted people for practicing witchcraft; nineteen people were convicted and hanged for witchcraft; fueled by a group of young girls and an affair (the events known famously as the “Salem Witch Trials”)

6 The Crucible Arthur Miller was inspired to write The Crucible not only because of his knowledge of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, but he was also inspired by the “McCarthyism” era of the 1950s. The Crucible is an allegory, meaning it is a story told on two levels On one level, it’s a story about the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 On another level, it’s a story about McCarthyism of the 1950s During the Salem Witch Trials, many people were accused of being witches During McCarthyism, many people were accused of being Communists

7 What is McCarthyism? A time period from about when fear of Communist spies spread throughout the U.S. because Senator Joseph McCarthy announced he had lists of suspected Communists. Fear of world domination by communists hung over America in the post WWII years Fears of nuclear holocaust because the Soviet Union had exploded an A-bomb in 1949 That same year China became communist Continual threats of atomic bombs littered the news Because of suspected communist spies in the U.S. government McCarthy took advantage of his power and began listing names of communists in the government, and then in other industries

8 What is McCarthyism? As with the alleged witches of Salem in 1692, suspected Communists in the 1950s were encouraged to confess and identify other Communists as means of escaping punishment As people began to realize they might be condemned as Communists regardless of innocence, many “cooperated,” attempting to save themselves through false confessions This created the image that the U.S. was overrun with Communists, and it perpetuated the hysteria

What is Communism? COMMUNISM IS AN ECONOMIC/POLITICAL THEORY IN THEORY, Communism Is a classless society (no upper or lower class) Means all people hold all land, factories, and goods Is when the State provides housing, jobs, set pay, and controls production, wages, and prices IN PRACTICE, Communism usually Becomes an authoritarian government that cares little for the working class Seeks above all else to preserve their own hold on power. “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others” from George Orwell’s Animal Farm

10 What were the outcomes of McCarthyism?
The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) investigated communists. HUAC wanted to prove actors and writers were communists. The Senate held hearings for some of the people on the lists. Hearings were televised nationwide. Arthur Miller was accused of being a Communist during the two years after The Crucible was published. Many people lost their jobs and their reputations, left the country, or committed suicide.

11 What Ended McCarthyism?
McCarthy never proved any of the charges, and soon his ideas were discredited. Nobody believed McCarthy’s claims anymore This was largely due to people like Ed Murrow, a radio/TV journalist, who sought to expose McCarthy Television was highly influential

12 McCarthyism: Key Terms
Red Scare– widespread fears of Communist influence on U.S. society and Communist infiltration of the U.S. government (1920s and 1950s) Blacklisted– A list of persons or organizations that have incurred disapproval or suspicion or are to be boycotted or otherwise penalized. Yellow– cowardly Pinko– communist sympathizer Red– Communist

13 What’s the Truth? Can’t treat the play strictly as an allegory
There were no witches, but there were Communists Miller’s characters are composites (real people combined with fake characters) The affair between Abigail Williams and John Proctor has no truth, so Miller’s decision to set sexual jealousy at the root of hysteria is a dramatic contrivance

14 The Crucible: Themes Among others, here are a few themes of The Crucible: Intolerance: In the Puritan society, church and state are one, and there is no room for deviation from social norms. Hysteria: People in Salem believed their own neighbors were committing crimes and many panicked that witchcraft was spreading wildly Reputation: Reputation was tremendously important in theocratic Salem, where public and private morals were one in the same; guilt by association was a common fear

15 A Long History of Witchcraft
Victims (the convicted witches) were not allowed to be buried in consecrated ground Witchcraft has been confused in pop culture with pointy black hats, green faces, and broom sticks Witchcraft actually goes back to ancient times, long before Christianity People have been persecuted for witchcraft since before the creation of the Bible, around 560 B.C. The very last execution for witchcraft took place in Poland in 1793.

16 A Long History of Witchcraft
Torture Methods to get confessions: Accused were sometimes tied at hands and feet and immersed in deep water; if the accused witch floated, she was guilty; if she sank and drowned, she was innocent. leg vices whipping stocks with iron spikes scalding lime baths prayer stools furnished with sharp pegs the strappado (hoisting on a pulley to pull the arms from the sockets). Pressing with stones Execution Methods: Burning at the stake Pressing and drowning Hanging was most common

17 The Salem Witch Trials of 1692
From June through September of 1692, 19 men and women, all accused of witchcraft were carted to a slope near Salem village for hanging Because the Puritans were had a theocratic government, going against religion was also going against the law, so worshipping the devil was illegal Another man who was over 80 years old was also pressed to death under stones for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges Hundreds of others faced accusations Dozens sat in jail for months without trial until the hysteria that swept through Puritan Massachusetts subsided

18 The Salem Witch Trials of 1692
Eventually, the colony admitted the trials were a mistake and compensated the families of those conviction Since then, the story of the trials has become synonymous with paranoia and injustice, and it continues to beguile the popular imagination more than 300 years later Why did this occur? Economic conditions Congregational strife Teenage boredom Personal jealousies

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