Writers May Use Literature As A Vehicle Of Social Criticism. In Which Ways Does Arthur Miller Criticize Society In His Texts?

1347 words - 6 pages

With the dramatization of the historical subject of the Salem Witch trials, Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible (1953) presents an allegory for the McCarthy era. The Salem Witch trials took place in Massachusetts (1692) and were based on a series of hearing and prosecutions of people that were accused of witchcraft. The play speaks to those who have lived under a repressing regime or a society where people questioned opinions, leading to executions and punishments. After the end of World War II, during the McCarthy era, the Americans embraced the same ideology as in 1692, and began a series of assaults on those who held Communist beliefs. Although McCarthy’s witch-hunt didn’t require execution, many suffered irreparable damage to their lives, even more so to their reputation. Miller, in a clever manner, is able to emphasize that aspect in his play. Furthermore, he satirizes the current Puritan education system and encapsulates the mass hysteria, an element, which one could apply to the McCarthy era. Finally, he encompasses the wide popularity of spreading rumors, which resulted in accusations.

One of the aspects that Miller satirized was the Puritan education system and the skewed beliefs that people adopted out of fear of the unknown. The portrayal of women and the education introduce the audience to the limitations in beliefs of the time. Reverend Hale is introduced as an intellectually high ranked specialist. During Miller’s description of Hale in Act I, the audience encounters sarcastic tones in his manner of introduction. He states, “…almost all men of learning, (Hale) spent a good deal of his time pondering the invisible world…” (31). Miller satirizes Hale, who is reputed to have experience in witchcraft. He arrives naïve and ignorant, with close-minded mentality, only trusting his books and studies. It is interesting how Miller portrays Hale as the intellectual of the time; however, he doesn’t realize the pretense of the alleged illness. Therefore, this clearly emphasizes the naïve characteristics of Reverend Hale. Miller mocks the failure in being able to recognize the deception behind Betty’s illness. Salem’s Puritan society adopted religious education systems as to spread the word of God. Moreover, to shield society from evil and the Devil, this is the reason behind the satire. Religion or McCarthyism blended into the people’s system of beliefs and ideals about the world. One last major issue that Miller addresses is the role of women in the Puritan society. The educational system wasn’t the only aspect that was conservative; women were to be silent until asked and to do nothing until told. They were expected to be outstanding housewives; moreover, they had to adopt subservient and obedient qualities. Women were commonly referred to as “Child” (Act I, 22) in the play, when men were adults. Miller incorporates change in gender roles in the play, where men and women change positions, and women become the ones with the upper hand. The...

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