Between the early 1940s and the late 1950s, the United States of America was threatened by the rapid growth of communism in the USSR. Many Americans came to believe that Communist supporters had infiltrated the American borders and were beginning to take over. Among those believers was the Senator of Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy. McCarthy gave a speech on communism in front of the Republican women’s group on February 7, 1950, in Wheeling, West Virginia. In this speech, McCarthy addressed that he had a government document listing over two hundred communists who were currently serving in the U. S. Government and military.
This serious accusation thus launched the Red Scare in the United States. Arthur Miller alludes to this historical event in his most famous play, The Crucible. In Miller’s work, there are direct parallels between the lead, Abigail Williams and Joseph McCarthy. Miller also incorporates common public reactions and a resemblance between the judicial system used in both events; utilized in the McCarthy era and the book. Miller incorporates aspects of McCarthy’s personality into the antagonist, which is the lead role of Abigail Williams. Both McCarthy and Abigail needed to cover p a fatal flaw.
McCarthy was slowly loosing the power and loyalty of the Wisconsin people and desperately needed a distraction to maintain power through the rest of his term as a senator. As a result, McCarthy made an accusation that there were Communists in America. In The Crucible, on pages 170 and 171, Abigail and a group of other girls are found dancing naked in the woods by her uncle reverend Parris, outside of the town of Salem, Massachusetts, by her Uncle, Reverend Parris. Parris instantly comes to the conclusion that the girls are summoning spirits and committing unholy acts.
To cover up her wrongdoing, Abigail lies to Parris and explains that she and with the other girls were possessed by witches and had been visited by the Devil. Both McCarthy and Abigail felt that telling an immense lie and making false accusations was the best way to undo their misactions. Another correlation between the two individuals is that they were able to gain the trust of the public easily. In a biography on Joseph McCarthy, written by David Oshinsky, it becomes apparent that “McCarthy’s allegations made him an instant celebrity.
His face adorned the covers of Time and Newsweek.. Early public opinion polls showed about 40 percent of the people agreeing that McCarthy’s charges were ‘a good thing for the country,’ and that figure rose above 50 percent in the coming months”. McCarthy literally had supporters falling at his feet and believing every word he spoke. Elizabeth Proctor explains how Abigail receives this same respect from the citizens on page 193 of The Crucible. Elizabeth states that, “The Deputy Governor promise hangin’ if they not confess, John. The town’s gone wild, I think.
She speak of Abigail, and I thought she were a saint, to hear her. Abigail brings the other girls into the court, and where she walks the crowd will part like the sea for Israel. And folks are brought before them, and if they scream and howl and fall to the floor–the person’s clapped in the jail for bewitchin’ them”. Miller’s use of the metaphor “part like the sea for Israel” demonstrates how Moses received loyalty and dedication without any evidence to back up his religious beliefs. Moses, Abigail, and McCarthy all had devoted followers even though there was no documented proof of their cause.
Thus, Abigail Williams is comparable to McCarthy because of their eed to hide past mistakes and the fame they both receive as a result of their lies. Arthur Miller also relates The Crucible to the Red Scare by having the same reactions from the people of both towns.. In a court testimony given by Eric A. Johnston to the House Committee on Un-American Activities on October 27, 1947, Johnston revealed that, “A damaging impression of Hollywood has spread all over the country as a result of last week’s hearings.
You have a lot of sensational testimony about Hollywood. From some of it the public will get the idea that Hollywood is running over Communists and communism. I elieve the impression which has gone out is the sort of scare- head which is grossly unfair to a great American industry. It must be a great satisfaction to the Communist leadership in this country to have people believe that Hollywood Communists are astronomical in number and almost irresistible in power”.
Johnston explains that the talk of communism in Hollywood is exaggerated from the actual statistics and that there are a lot fewer communists supporters in Hollywood than there is thought to be. This exaggeration can be seen in The Crucible with all of the innocent victims that are accused and hanged. In he beginning stages of The Crucible, on page 170, Abigail points out that there is a rumor of witchcraft that has been spreading through the town, but no one is a suspect yet.
Abigail worsens this rumor by crying out, “I danced for the devil; I saw him; I wrote in his book; I go back to Jesus; I kiss His hand; I saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw Goody Osburn with the Devil! I saw Bridget Bishop with the Devil! “, on page 189. The few accusations Abigail makes in this scene only fuel the rumor in the town and feed the fire for more and more accusations to be made by the other girls who were dancing in the woods. In both scenarios, the severity of the rumor grows rapidly and is no longer at a truthful statement.
Lastly, Miller relates the two incidents together by relating the two court systems. In Executive Order 9835, issued by President Harry S. Truman on March 21, 1947, Truman outlined the specific protocol in which a suspected Communist would be tried for treason against the United States. Truman specifically addressed the right to an attorney. The Order directly outlined that, “An officer or employee who is charged with being disloyal shall have a right to an administrative hearing before a loyalty board in the mploying department or agency.
He may appear before such board personally, accompanied by counsel or representative of his own choosing, and present evidence on his own behalf, through witnesses or by affidavit”. Here, it is stated that the suspect had the right to representation in the court and shall provide evidence proving their innocence. However, in The Crucible, on pages 208 and 209, Giles Corey attempts to represent his wife and free her from the allegations made on her. Giles claims that his wife has been doing no suspicious deed aside from her usual reading.
Giles attempts to present vidence to free his wife, but the court deems it implausible. The court allowed Giles to do exactly what was outlined in Executive Order 9835; represent his wife and present evidence for her innocence. Overall, Miller wrote The Crucible, as an analogy for McCarthyism and the Red Scare. To do this, Miller incorporates a resemblance between Joseph McCarthy and Abigail Williams. He closely relates the events in The Crucible with the the actual events that took place during the Red Scare. Miller also compares the townspeople’s reactions to the trials with that of the judicial systems.