Arthur Miller’s The Crucible parallels the McCarthy Era with similarities between the two trials, the notion of mob mentality, as well as the characters and plot occurrences themselves. Arthur Miller captured the essence of the McCarthy Era in his play. The parallels between the two eras are clearly shown in addition to the unruly hysteria of the mob mentality. Judgments became distorted and vengeance began to uproot when careers and reputations were put on the line in both The Crucible and throughout Second Red Scare.
The similarities between the Salem Witch Trials and the McCarthy Era are evident throughout the play such as the common theme of revenge. “Naturally, the best proof of your sincerity of your confession was your naming other whom you had seen in the Devil’s company – an invitation to private vengeance” (Why I Wrote). In both trials, the accused had to list names that were involved with either communism or witchcraft. This brought private vengeance to light. Some saw the trials as an opportunity to satisfy past grudges of previous land disputes. This is shown through the character of Thomas Putnam. Putnam used the trials to his advantage only to profit himself. “This man is killing his neighbors for their land” (The Crucible 96). The theme of vengeance manifests itself in the character Thomas Putnam whose intentions are to exploit the system for his own personal gain. Many people during the Second Red Scare used this tactic as well to amend previous grudges and profit only themselves.
Arthur Miller was apprehensive about the amount of similarities between the two trials. “So many practices of the Salem trials were similar to those employed by the congressional committees that I could easily be accused of skewing history for a mere partisan purpose” (Why I Wrote). This was a problem that Miller faced. He did not know how the play would be accepted and was worried that it could upset more people than it inspired. However, one major difference was palpable; there were no actual witches in Salem but there were communists in America.
Both the Salem Witch Trials and the McCarthy Era contain within them the theme of mob mentality. The exposing of names led to hysteria as people were either forced to lie to save themselves or face public humiliation or worse; the gallows. The judgments of those directly involved with the trials who were responsible for the lives many were severely distorted. They have become too involved with the trials to contradict themselves. They may have even had the power to halt everything and put an end to the pandemonium but they refuse because their reputations will be ruined. This is shown through the character Deputy Governor Danforth. Danforth has the power to stop the trials at any point but refuses to even consider it because his reputation will be decimated. This is shown in the quote by Danforth, “I will not receive a single plea for pardon or postponement . . . Postponement now speaks a floundering on...