American Crucibles the Crucible Contemporary Book Report

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SAMPLE EXCERPT . . .
Unwilling to have his confession displayed publicly, John Proctor chooses death.

Arthur Miller's play, The Crucible, may have been based on early colonial events, but it was intended to frame the communist witch hunts by HUAC in the same light (Hinman et al., 1994). As happened in Salem of 1692, so-called witnesses took the stand before HUAC and named the names of communists, socialists, and communist sympathizers. Years later, it was discovered that many of the witnesses for the state had in fact lied and were coached by HUAC and the FBI. As had happened in Salem, peoples' lives were destroyed by the legal weight irresponsibly given to the so-called testimony.

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Miller describes the events taking place during the late 40s and early 50s as unimaginable, just as they were in Salem in 1692 (Hinman et al., 1994). During his research for the material that would enable him to write The Crucible, Miller came across court transcripts that captured an event belying the sheer ridiculousness of the situation. Two of the governor's sons traveled to the Salem Courthouse to watch the proceedings and during testimony actually began to laugh out loud; however, they were the only ones who were laughing and threats of jail and hanging soon curbed their incredulity. The seriousness with which the Salem officials took the accusations of witchcraft reminded Miller of the seriousness with which HUAC and the FBI took the communist threat. From the perspective of outsiders looking in, which is a perspective that Miller seemed to have been able to maintain, the events that were taking place were ludicrous, but the antagonists were deadly serious. As Miller states, "To lose oneself day after day in that record of human delusion was to know a fear, not for one's safety, but of the spectacle of intelligent people giving themselves over to a rapture of murderous credulity" (p. 15).

Book Report on American Crucibles the Crucible Contemporary Assignment

Miller argues that both witch hunts framed the accused as conspirators (Hinman et al., 1994). In 1692 Salem, the accused were alleged to be conspiring with the devil. In postwar America, communists and socialists were alleged to be conspiring with Soviet Russia. Miller points out that the same pattern has emerged during major revolutions throughout history, including in Revolutionary France and a Spain immersed in the Inquisition, where all opponents were named conspirators.

The indiscriminate use of the label 'conspirator' would also have been a common theme during the rise of nationalism in the 19th century, since this movement was an extension of the revolutions that began during the 18th century (Cunningham and Reich, 2010). Western countries were in the midst of a dramatic transformation from aristocratic rule to representative governments. These revolutions and nationalist movements were reportedly triggered by the American Revolution, so it does not seem too surprising that the struggle for control within the United States would have manifested as a Civil War in the mid-19th century, the New Deal in the early 20th Century, and then a nationalistic fervor led by social conservatives during the mid-20th century. Miller, a social liberal, happened to be living through the latter.

Conclusions

Miller's The Crucible remains required reading for any student interested in understanding the role of irrational fear in American history. His ability to capture the destructive power of fear, when it griped a whole town, will hopefully be a cautionary tale to anyone confronted with fear mongering by local and national leaders. If not, then countless innocent lives will again be destroyed or lost in the pursuit of a society free of radicals, rebels, and nonconformists.

References

Cunningham, Lawrence S. And Reich, John J. (2010). Culture and Values: A Survey of the Humanities. Volume I. Seventh Ed. Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Hinman, Sheryl, Cobb, Michele Lee, Hopper, Julie, Wafer, Shay, Wolf, Laura et al. (1994). Alive & Aloud: Radio Plays for the Classroom. The Crucible by Arthur Miller. LA Theatre Works. Retrieved 14 Jan. 2013 from http://www.latw.org/acrobat/crucible.pdf.

Miller, Arthur. (1952). The Crucible: A Play… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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