America In The 1950s And The Cold War

883 words - 4 pages

My paper will discuss the theme of McCarthyism as portrayed in Arthur Miller's play The Crucible. The play uses the fear of witchcraft in the America of the 1600s as a metaphor for the fear of Communism in the 1950s. The difference between the two events is that one was a witch-hunt while the other was a Communist hunt. However, in both historical events innocent people were accused, tried and found guilty largely due to the mass hysteria both hunts created.Set in the Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, Arthur Miller's play describes the witch hunt that saw blameless people condemned as alleged witches and hanged for crimes they did not commit. Arthur Miller wrote the play in 1953 during the height of McCarthyism, when politician Joseph McCarthy falsely accused numerous Americans of being Communists and his anti-Communist trials ruined reputations, ended friendships and destroyed lives. The cold war between America and Russia was heating up in 1949 when President Truman reported that the Soviet Union had developed an atomic bomb striking fear into the American nation. Miller wrote his play in the midst of the second Red Scare when America felt threatened by Communism much like Salem sensed the dangers of witchcraft. Arthur Miller acknowledged this fear when he said, "From being our wartime ally, the Soviet Union rapidly became a expanding empire. In 1949, Mao Zedong took power in China. Western Europe also seemed ready to become Red-especially in Italy, where the Communist Party was the largest outside of Russia, and was growing. Capitalism, in the opinion of many, myself included, had nothing more to say, it's final poisoned bloom having been Italian and German Fascism" (1) Like the fear of witchcraft in the puritan religion of 17th century Salem, America of the early fifties felt that threat of Communism was real. The country was very weary of an aggressive political ideology that seemed to threaten their free way of life. Enter Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy, an undistinguished member of the Senate until February 1950, when he made the public charge that Communists had infiltrated the State department. Such was the country's paranoia at the time that even though McCarthy was unable to produce the name of any card-carrying Communists in the State department his campaign of unfounded accusations soon gained popular support. A virtual unknown politician at the time, McCarthy propelled himself further into limelight when he promoted suspicions of Communism in many quarters, most prominently in the entertainment industry through the House...

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