Reflections Of Fear: The Cold War And Its Influence On Literature Of The Time

903 words - 4 pages

The age of McCarthyism from 1945 through 1963 was a time of great tension and fear in American history. The emotions in society influenced the writing of that time, resulting in two of the most powerful plays ever written: Inherit the Wind and The Crucible. These stories reflect the attitudes and personas of what was happening in the world at the time they were written.
Inherit the Wind has an array of characters that mirror the world during McCarthyism. The greatest similarity between Inherit the Wind and its historical context were the characters of Brady and McCarthy’s personality. McCarthy has been described, when speaking about his style when orating speeches, “...his current path was the path of righteousness. his delivery was emphatic and powerful. His fist pounded the pulpit, and his voice growled with vigilance.”("Joseph McCarthy as the Epithet of an Era" ) Brady showcases the charisma and force McCarthy used with his words to make people listen to him and his opinions.The personality of Brady seems to be Miller’s impression of McCarthy shown to the reader through his eyes. When about to make a speech, Brady’s charismatic quality is described to the reader, “[Brady] seems to carry with him a built-in spotlight...[Brady] raises his hand. Obediently, the crowd falls to a hushed and anticipatory silence.” (Lawrence, Lee 19) Brady’s power as a public figure imitates McCarthy’s allure. McCarthy’s image in history is known to be one of immense power and manipulation of the masses’ emotions. The persona of Brady seems greatly influenced by McCarthy himself.

The Crucible’s similarities to its context lie in the attitude of Salem. The same kind of hysteric whirlwind that had taken hold of Salem during the witch trials was controlling America. Even those characters who had an absolutely sedulous stance in regard to their religious morals were under constant suspicion.
An article published in 1960 accentuates this kind of mindset when speaking about Communist literature, “...[peoples] are being wooed and won by the Communists, not with bombs and bullets, but with words and books.....The moral tone is excellent: there is no violence, no crime, no nakedness, no sex, and no alcohol...The Communists want the children...this children’s literature is a preliminary step towards winning the children of the world.” (Schwartz ) This article shows how far the hysteria has reached, so even innocent children’s stories are seen as ploys to trap the young into a Communist crusade. This attitude of suspicion is evident in The Crucible’s hysteric atmosphere.
The theme of suspicion is perceived in a different way in Inherit the Wind. Another article exhibiting...

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