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Witch Trial Hysteria


            Arthur Miller's play The Crucible is a drama based upon the 1960s Massachusetts witchcraft trials. The Crucible is a controversial play, for it criticizes the American mass hysteria against communism in the 1950s. There are parallels between McCarthyism and the Salem witch trials in The Crucible; by examining the circumstances and details of both events they become evident. The cause of the mass hysteria in the play and in 1950 was an underlying foundation of uncertainty and a threat to their way of life. It led to the lapse of truth, rationalization, and justice.
             In 1950, Senator Joseph McCarthy started a massive anti-communist campaign. The threat of communism was real because of the Cold War. Republicans accused President Truman of allowing Communists in the government. Responding to those charges, Truman set up the Loyalty Review Board in 1947 to investigate all federal employees. By the end of 1951, more than 20,000 federal workers had been investigated, some 2,000 had resigned, and more than 300 had been fired. In most cases the government did not allow dismissed employees to respond to the charges against them. None of the charges were ever proven. .
             In The Crucible, a similar event occurred. In the play, when the girls of Salem were caught dancing in the woods and two of the girls would not wake up, it caused people in the town to believe that the devil has possessed the girls. The fact that the girls were practicing witchcraft throws the town into hysteria. When the girls were confronted with the accusations of practicing witchcraft, they simply placed the blame on the theory that devil had possessed them. The appalling part of the play is that girls, who were actually trying to practice witchcraft, were the ones making the accusations. The girls continued the accusations as a way of getting attention. If anyone in the town did anything suspicious that person was accused of being in league with the devil, with no significant evidence to accuse them.


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