I’m Not A Witch… Or A Communist! I Plead The 5th!

1367 words - 5 pages

During the 1950s, America was involved in the Cold War, and when United States Senator Joseph McCarthy announced that there were communist spies in America, it created mass hysteria among its citizens. This lead to the ruined lives of many innocent Americans. Similar events occurred during the Salem witch trials in 1692. During this time period, it was thought that witches were infiltrating the religious Puritan societies. The suspicion of witchcraft in Salem caused hysteria among the townspeople, which lead to the destruction of many good Christian people and their families. Arthur Miller, who was arrested during the McCarthy era, wrote The Crucible, a play about the 1692 Salem witch trials, to expose the absurdities of McCarthy’s “witch hunt”.
One of the most obvious similarities between the two time periods is McCarthy’s counterpart Abigail Williams, the infamous antagonist from The Crucible. In February 1950, McCarthy stated to the public that he held “A list of 205 that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless, are still working and shaping policy in the State Department” (Wikiquote 1). McCarthy’s main goal by announcing there were communist working in the American government was to make a better name for himself so he could be re-elected, and much how Abigail encouraged witchcraft in Salem. “I saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw Goody Osburn with the Devil! I saw Bridget Bishop with the Devil!”(Miller 1262). Abigail quickly and falsely accused others to avoid punishment and to be with John Proctor. Abigail accused these innocent women of witchcraft with no evidence, even though she was the one practicing witchcraft. “You drank blood Abby… You drank a charm to kill John Proctor’s wife! You drank a charm to kill Goody Proctor!”(Miller 1244). This is similar to how McCarthy accused Jews and homosexuals of being a communist with little or no evidence, yet there is evidence he was homosexual. Both were hypocrites. Not only did McCarthy and Abigail accuse the general public, but both accused those in a position of higher power. Abigail threatened the Salem judge Danforth with “Think you to be so mighty that the power of Hell may not turn your wits,” while McCarthy accused Shirley Temple, the Girl Scouts, the head of the United States army, and other highly respected names of being communist (Miller 1307). In both cases the people began to doubt Abigail and McCarthy’s credibility.
While Miller intended Abigail Williams to represent Joseph McCarthy, other characters in The Crucible represent real life people who were involved in McCarthy’s witch hunts as well. Reverend Hale represents the general public of the McCarthy hearings. Due to the false accusations and the unwillingness of Danforth to see through the lies, Hale exclaims, “I denounce these proceedings. I quit this court!”(Miller 1315). The same thing happened when McCarthy began to stretch his lies and the House UnAmerican...

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