The purpose of my paper is to compare and contrast Arthur Miller’s The Crucible with the actual witch trials that took place in Salem in the 17th Century. Although many of the characters and events in the play were non-fictional, many details were changed by the playwright to add intrigue to the story. While there isn’t one specific cause or event that led to the Salem witch trials, it was a combination of events and factors that contributed to the birth and growth of the trials. Some of these events included: a small pox outbreak that was happening at the time, the revocation of the Massachusetts Bay Colony charter by Charles II, and the constant fear of Native attacks. These helped in creating anxiety among the early Puritans that they were being punished by God himself.
Arthur Miller was born on October 17, 1915, to Isidore and Augusta Barnett Miller. He was born into a family in which his mother was a teacher and his father, a prosperous manufacturer. He was not the greatest student (having failed Algebra three times) but instead was more interested in athletics during his teenage years. Having lost all of the family fortunes in the Stock Market Crash of 1929, after high school, Arthur went to work in a warehouse dealing with automobile parts. It was there that he picked up a copy of The Brothers Karamazov which influenced him into becoming a writer. A few years later, he was accepted to the University of Michigan where he majored in Journalism.
During his time in college, Miller wrote many plays which, in turn, he won awards for. His first play “The Man Who Had All the Luck” opened in Broadway in 1944 but, unfortunately, was short lived. Then in 1953, The Crucible opened on Broadway. While the play did focus on the Witch Trials of Salem having taken place in the 17th Century, many critics believed the play analogized with Senator Joseph McCarthy’s “witch-hunts” for communists. A few years later, he was called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. While admitting to his actions, he refused to name any others involved in the communist front activities.
“Miller also observes the tremendous forces that mere accusation had at this time, something that was evident as well in the McCarthy witch-hunts. A man’s career could be ruined if he were merely asked, “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist party?””
In 1954, Miller was denied a passport by the State department when he had planned to attend the opening of his play in Brussels and this was not the end of Miller’s government troubles over the next few decades. He was called before Representative Francis Walter’s Committee on Un-American Activities where he talked to the members on various subjects. At this encounter, Miller was asked about his attendance at a Communist writers’ meeting in which he admitted to attending but was not willing to name any other attendees. Refusing to answer the questions of the committee, Miller was tried and found...