The witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts in the early
sixteen hundreds was a time of uneasiness and suspicion.
Anyone could easily turn in his or her neighbor on the
ground of witchcraft. Someone could merely say their
neighbor's spirit had attacked them during the night, which
no man can prove. Nevertheless, as a God-fearing community,
they could not think of denying the evidence, because to
deny the existence of Evil is to deny the existence of
Goodness, which is God.
The most important scene in the play was act two, scene
three, where John Proctor is able to talk with his wife,
Elizabeth, one last time. He decides that he will "confess"
to the crime of witchcraft, thereby avoiding being hung.
However, to accept what he said, the judge also requires him
to sign a written confession which states that he confessed
to the crime of witchcraft. Judge Danforth would post it on
the church door, to use Proctor as an example to get other
people to confess. That upset Proctor greatly, because
people would look down on him with disdain, and it would
blacken forever his name.
What was most important to him was to make a stand
against the insanity of the town, for himself and for God,
and using that as a last resort to make people aware of what
was happening. This last stand for righteousness is an
example of proctor's great character and rationale.
Arthur Miller wrote his play, The Crucible, a story about
the Salem witch trials, and the panic resulting from it, as
an allegory to show people the insanity of the McCarthy
hearings. He wrote it as an allegory so that, if tried by
McCarthy, he could say, "it's just a play about the witch
trials in Salem. How do you get this communist idea from
it?" The story illustrates how people react to mass
hysteria, created by a person or group of people desiring
fame, as people did during the McCarthy hearings.
Arthur Miller, acting as a great visionary, warned
us that if we did not become aware of history repeating
itself, our society would be in danger. At the same time,
he had to do this in a matter that would not get him
arrested, hence the witch-trial mechanization.
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