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Facharbeit: Arthur A. Miller and his play "The Crucible" in comparison to McCarthyism

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Arthur A. Miller and his novel “The Crucible“

Within this test I am going to explain the circumstances which took part during the time when Arthur Miller lived or mainly the ones during the time when Miller wrote his play “The Crucible” (it was published in 1953). The play deals with the witch-hunt from the community of Salem, Massachuesetts in 1692. Between the play and the McCarthyism can be drawn a lot of paralells. Those will be presented in the third part of this test.
At first I will write about Arthur Miller himself as far as it links to the events during this time.
Within the second part there will be given a summary of the play “The Crucible” and at the very end I will quote what Arthur Miller said he wanted to reach with this kind of writing in context to my personal opinion about him if he reached his aim or not.
Arthur A. Miller lived during the time of “McCarthyism”, the time when Communists were hunted. He was born on the 17th of Octobre in 1915 in the city of New York and from jewish origin. His family emigrated from Poland to the USA.
Miller was not a mirror of society. He always lived against the principles the society expected one to, so his plays did. In them Miller always condemned this style of living, which was called the “American Way of life”.
His most aggressive plays were “Death of a Salesman” and “The Crucible”.
After publishing the play “The Crucible” Miller was condemned in court, because he was supposed to know some names of “Communists” and refused to tell those names, but after the time of McCarthyism the judgement was taken back.
Miller died of cancer one year before, on the 10th of February in 2005.
The play “The Crucible” is about a little Puritan community in Salem, fanatic believing in god and following his principles. Everyone has the same way and style of living.
The main characters in the play are Betty Parris, daughter of the preacher Samuel Parris, Abigail Williams, his niece and Tituba, who is a slave from Barbados.
When some girls out of the village and Tituba are dancing around the fire to conjure John Proctors – he is a married man and had an affaire with Abigail, now she tries to win his love and get his wife out of the way – love, they are seen by Reverend Parris and accused to have used witchcraft.
Though they pretend there was no use of witchcraft, the girls are forced to tell names of “witches” they know and who took part during the “ceremony”. Betty and Abigail use this chance for removing people who they disliked and who stood in their way. Through this accusations there is started a mechanic process, because if the accused witches tell names of other ones they will be saved from hell and be reaccepted from god. It turns to a vicious circle and at the culmination of the witch-hunt there could be just said, that someone reads books or, as another example, that all babies who were touched from one special nurse died ever immediately after it – so this nurse would be called a witch, too.
In the end, but too late, Reverend Hale, an excorcist, comes to the conclusion that one is understanding the laws of god wrong by sacrificing people and that there does not even exist any kind of witchcraft.
Both, Communist-hunt and Witch-hunt rely on theories, on suppositions which cannot be proved. Some people thought up something and in addition to the given circumstances and the superstition of people it led to those events in 1692 and 1950 and ended in a complete chaos, so far that if one accused somebody to be a communist or a witch and the one gave an example, improvable, the accused somebody was persecuted or even killed without a trial in court.
Now I will describe the paralells between the play “The Crucible”, by quoting parts of the play, and the given circumstances at the time of the publishing of the book.
“They believed, in short, that they held in their steady hands the candle that would light the world. (…) I helped them with the discipline it gave them.” (p.15, l. 16-19)
( If one reads this sentences step by step, one will notice that this can also fit to the Americans. The american society, also, believed THEY were in need, THEY were called and THEY had to free the world from any kind of hostility against ‘democracy and liberty’. And this belief also gave them the power to do what they did and mostly to succeed in it and to stand and stay brave until the end.
John Proctor: “Can you speak one minute without we land in Hell again? I am sick of Hell!” (p.35, l. 12-13)
It is important to mention that the only thing Reverend S.Parris talks about is Hell.
( This can be compared to Senator Joe McCarthy who only presented things in, on the one hand, black and, on the other hand, white. There was no in between of negative and positive.
McCarthy followed almost the same behaviour as Reverend Parris. Everything, not fitting into society, was negative and bad.
In the long run, even president Reagan followed this principle, that there was always something bad to fight against.
Giles Corey: “I never said my wife were a witch, Mr Hale; I only said she were reading books!” (p.68, l.13-14)
Short time before, Mrs Corey was condemned in court and put in prison.
( What Giles Corey said was partly a question to Communists which the HUAC (House of Un-American Activities Committee) asked. So Communists, supposingly, were condemned if they answered with ‘Yes’, the other way round, if they answered with ‘No’, they were, supposingly, questioned so long until they answered with ‘Yes’.
The same happened to witches…they were questioned and tortured until they confessed something what they didn’t even commit and the society wanted to hear.
What Arthur Miller at last said about his play himself can be read at the back of the German edition of “The Crucible” ( “Hexenjagd”.

Here the quotation of Arthur Miller:
“Ich wünschte mir die Möglichkeit, ein aggressives Stück zu schreiben. Es sollte aus dem Morast des Subjektivismus jenen einen, ganz bestimmten, schleichenden Prozess ans Licht bringen, durch den sich erweist, dass die Sünde des gesellschaftlichen Terrors darin besteht, den Menschen seines Gewissens zu berauben und damit seiner Persönlichkeit...“
From my point of view Arthur A. Miller succeeded in writing the play he wanted to and as far as I can judge I would also call it a well-made comparison between the witch-hunt and McCartyism though just writing about the events in Salem, 1692.
“The Crucible” is a timeless play, because it describes the situation when there is anything strange and then called hostile. And there will be always be new hostility, when it was against witches and communists in the past, it is now against any kind of terrorism and maybe even against the muslim religion.
This book shows how much people can be influenced from others and to what this can lead – the robbery of oneself’s opinion and conscious…like Arthur Miller had said!
Arthur Miller: The Crucible/Hexenjagd
Weltgeschichte – Von Christi Geburt bis heute (Verlag: Serges Medien)

Special Thanks to:
My mama, who had to listen to this test about 1001 times, just telling
me if the sound is good and so giving me a hint where mistakes could

My boyfriend, who gave me the idea of chosing this topic and lend me the two editions of “The Crucible”. He improved language- and stylistic-mistakes and helped me to work out the structure of this exam.
Die Facharbeit ist aus dem Fach Geschichte bilingual, geht in den Bereich der Sozialwissenschaft über, ich würde es aber noch als Englisch bezeichnen.
Es ist eine Inhaltsangabe des Buches "The Crucible - Hexenjagd gegeben und es werden einzelne Beispiele aus dem Buch mit Beispielen aus der Kommunistenjagd verglichen und analysiert. Ebenso ist eine kurze Biographie von Miller gegeben.

(Englisch, ) (1305 Wörter)
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