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The Crucible


( Red was a word used for a Communist.) The Crucible was Arthur Miller s way of protesting the House Unamerican Activities Committee hearings. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Crucible

The Crucible
  • A witch hunt and a metaphor

In the 1600s, Puritans settled on the East coast
of the United States. They brought with them the
hope of religious freedom, but instead became
embroiled in hysteria over the existence of
witches. They had been persecuted in their native
England, but they created a theocracy and
eventually persecuted others.
Most of those accused of being witches were
women. Many were healers, and used plants to
heal people. Many were without family, and this
made them easy targets. They were people who did
not fit in with the mainstream for some reason.
One of the ways most witches were accused was
with the use of spectral evidence. If someone
said they had seen the accused with the devil in
a dream, or that the accused had visited them in
the night, or had hurt them, it was taken as
evidence that the devil was at work.
20 executed Between 175 to 200 imprisoned
How did it start?
In 1692, several girls in the village of Salem,
Massachusetts became intrigued when a West Indian
servant told them stories of magic and voodoo
from her native land.
Bored and restricted by the oppressive Puritan
life, the girls slipped into the woods one night
and conjured love charms and hexes.
One girl, Betty Parris, slipped into
unconsciousness when her father caught them. She
wouldnt wake up, and this started the discussion
of witchcraft. To avoid punishment, the girls
created the story of the witches who made them
dance and conjure the spells.
Why did it happen?
It began as a way for the oppressed girls to
avoid being punished.
It then became an ideal way to get revenge on
anyone whom you disliked.
People started accusing their neighbors of being
witches so they could steal their farmland.
People accused others of being witches if they
wanted to steal their husbands or wives or
Those accused of being witches were most often
found guilty. Sometimes they were sentenced to
be tied to a rock dunked in a pond, and if they
sank, they were declared innocent. Innocent. If
they somehow survived the dunking, they were
obviously witches, and they were executed. Most
of those found guilty of witchcraft were hung.
One man was pressed to death with rocks because
he refused to plead guilty or innocent, insuring
that his sons still inherited his lands.
Why Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible Arthur
Miller, one of Americas most famous playwrights,
lived during the 1950s and experienced the
Communist hysteria of the era. People thought
their were Commies everywhere, and one man,
Senator Joseph McCarthy, made it his personal
mission to find Communists and destroy their
lives by bringing them before something called
Senator McCarthy accused many people actors,
writers, people in media, people in the military
of being Communists. He held hearings where
people were commanded to give names of other
Communists in order for leniency. People were
afraid they might be named as Communists, and it
was called the Red Scare. (Red was a word used
for a Communist.)
The Crucible was Arthur Millers way of
protesting the House Unamerican Activities
Committee hearings. He compared the Communist
hearings to the witch hunts of Salem, where
gossip, rumors, and fear were evidence enough to
convict people. The term witch hunt now
applies to any activity where people are looking
for a scapegoat or where they are using
accusations to get revenge or to get personal
gain or attention.
REFLECTION (150 words) Based on what youve
heard about the Salem Witch Trials and the
McCarthy hearings, write a paragraph detailing
any connections you see between the two
occurrences. Why do you think Arthur Miller
chose to use the period of history (1692) that he
chose? Why didnt he just write about the Red
Scare and the McCarthy trials?s Are there any
differences between the two occurrences (other
than the obvious things, like time periods and
clothes, etc.) How do you think both of these
witch hunts were stopped eventually?