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 t hem 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 w hat 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 Pro ctor 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 grea t 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
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 mec hanization.
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