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This essay will compare and contrast McCarthyism and the Salem Witch Trials, drawing parallels between these two historical events. It will discuss how both periods were characterized by fear, accusation, and the persecution of individuals based on unfounded claims. The piece will explore the socio-political contexts of each event, examining how fear of the unknown and the desire for control led to mass hysteria and injustice. The analysis will also consider the lasting impact of these events on American society and culture, and the lessons they provide about fear, power, and human rights. More free essay examples are accessible at PapersOwl about Salem Witch Trials.
America is among the most developed countries in the world and is developing daily. When someone talks about America, people think of it as a big country with good education and a strong economy. But how many people know about American history? How many people know what did America experience to be strong as today? Before America becomes such solid as today, it has undergone many crises. Some events that led to the death of many innocent people were The Salem Witch Trials and McCarthyism.
Nowadays, every high school teaches about The Salem Witch Trials. Everything began when Puritans moved to Salem- a town in Massachusetts. The Puritans moved to Salem because they wanted to practice their religion for free. The theology of Puritans was heavily influenced by the church and Christian beliefs. Their law was so harsh; that’s why if anyone did something strange or did not follow a strict moral code would be regarded as against them. The Salem Witch Trials occurred from February 1692 to May 1693. It happened when two girls named Betty and Abigail suddenly screamed, threw things, and made weird sounds. They covered their ears in church and tried suicide by jumping into the fire. The local doctors could not find the reason, so they blamed the supernatural and declared that witches existed in Salem. In a book about this event, Arthur Miller wrote the Crucible.
How it works
The book says everything begins because of a girl named Abigail William. When she and her friends danced in the forest, her uncle caught them, and Petty, her cousin, immediately fainted and never woke up. She had been sleeping for ages, and even her uncle invited a doctor to come to find out why she did not wake up yet, but the doctor could not find the reason. However, at that time, dance was a committed sin in Salem. Because of fear, Abigail started to spread the rumor of witchcraft. She started to blame others. Some facts said that because the girls want to harm people whom they do not like.
Furthermore, there was a conflict between some wealthy families, so they took advantage of this rumor as an excuse to remove people they did not like. This rumor made everyone in Salem town scared. Significantly, the people who lived in Salem believed that Devil could give witches the power to harm others to get their loyalty. Many innocent people- primarily women, were accused because someone charged them with witchcraft.
People would accuse someone has some strange acts, or as what they say is not following their rule, against God, they would bring them to the court to jail, ask them some stupid questions; and if they confessed they were witches, they worked for Devil, people would let them go. But if they were stubborn and did not confess that they were witches, people would hang them. Many people admitted to avoiding punishment. So it meant they had no choice. The trials happened for a year until people stopped hunting for witches because they had lost their friends and family. Another reason was that when the Trials started, they targeted the lower-class people, so they did not have enough power to defend themselves, but it spread out to upper-class people. Everything had gone beyond the limit, making the whole village chaotic. It reached the limit when someone accused Governor Phipps’ wife, so he decided to dissolve the court.
People used to call the reason for this event “mass hysteria.” Mass hysteria is a phenomenon of spreading rumors in society, whether real or imaginary, through a population due to rumors and fear. It impacted people in Salem because, at that time, Salem people had stress from a growing population and limited opportunities for women to participate in society; King Charles II reviled the Massachusetts Bay’s charter because of not following the tariff and navigation laws. Besides, the winter of 1692- 1693 was also harsh, making them not do well in cultivation. One of the most concrete studies, published by psychologist Linnda Caporael, said that the reason for some strange acts because of the fungus ergot. Some scientists say eating ergot food will lead to vomiting, paralyzed inability, and hallucinations. Also, the fungus thrives in warm and wet climates- not too unlike the climate in Salem. But because of that time, people did not have enough knowledge to realize and understand it. People may project their fears onto something else whenever a society feels threatened.
Arthur Miller stated in The Crucible (1953), “He has his goodness now. God forbid I take it from here!”. This is an impressive quote and very meaningful to people who read the book to realize that even though John made Elizabeth disappointed, she still forgives him. That’s why she did not take his last chance to save John his eternity. Another quote from the famous book about the Salem Witch Trials is, “In 1692, The Massachusetts Bay Colony executed fourteen women, five men, and two dogs for witchcraft”. It describes how crazy this event was; they even accused animals being witchcraft. Everything was chaos; people could not distinguish between right and wrong. They did not care about morals or dogma. They just accused whoever they wanted. They just cared about themselves and ignored the lives of others. They blamed everybody as insane. Humans’ indifference is a terrible thing. The quote from a real victim, which is even engraved on the rock nowadays in Salem, is, “God knows I am innocent. I can deny wickedness. I do not plead guilty,” Rebecca Nurse says. This quote expresses despair of Rebecca.
Even when threatened to admit guilt, she was stubborn and did not admit it because she knew she did nothing wrong and was not ashamed of herself. She believes that God knows it. One of the first victims to be accused of witchcraft said to Rev. Nicholas Noyes- a colonial minister at the time: “You’re a liar! I’m no more a witch than you are a wizard! If you take my life away, God will give you blood to drink!”- Sarah Good. Noyes died twenty years late, choking on his blood. That message showed her beliefs to God, and it was her curse for Noyes before she was hanged. That curse became true and was proven for her innocent and integrity.
The horrors of history are passed on from generation to generation in the hope that they will never happen again. However, in the 1950s, history repeats itself. Meanwhile, The Salem Witch Trials were about witchcraft. McCarthyism, which was about communism, happened between 1950 and 1954, making it one of the most horrible times in American history. McCarthyism, known as the Red Scare, occurred in the United States. Everything started because of Senator Joseph McCarthy. In a speech, he proclaimed that he was aware that two hundred fifty members of the Communist Party were working in the United States Department of State.
This speech opened a new era of paranoia and accusations against America. Everybody was starting to believe in what he said because, during World War II, when the USA and USSR (Soviet Union) were allied against Hitler, some American communism spied for the Russians. There were fears of a nuclear holocaust based on the knowledge that the Soviet Union exploded its first A-bomb in 1949. That same year, China, the world’s most populous nation, became communist. Half of Europe was under Joseph Stalin’s influence, and every time Americans read their newspapers, there seemed to be a new atomic threat. Besides, when the Cold War escalated, and this espionage became known, domestic communism came to be seen as a threat to national security.
People accused victims in terrible ways, such as if someone hung modern art on their walls, had a multiracial social circle, or signed petitions against nuclear weapons, they might just have been a communist. McCarthy exploited that to help his position and his political party in the Sage Department. He became notorious for flaunting ever-changing lists of alleged communists. Egged on by other politicians, he continued to make outrageous accusations while distorting or fabricating evidence. People who were accused would be put in jail if they were citizens; if they were not, they would be sent back to their country. McCarthy made a big mistake. McCarthy’s wild accusations became a nuisance to Republican Part- the party he belonged to. McCarthy was stubborn that he was right, so the government decided to open the court about it. With the nonsense evidence, McCarthy loses. The McCarthy-Army hearings collapsed soon after that.
Salem Witch Trials and McCarthyism are horrible events that no one in America wants to happen again. They have many similar things. The book called “The Crucible” was written by Arthur Miller. He used the Trials as an allegory for the McCarthyism paranoia in the 1950s. The McCarthy Hearings were referred to as witch hunts because of their similarity to the Salem Witch Trials. McCarthy McCarthyism started as the group of girls started the Salem Witch Trials. He was like a group of girls, accusing innocent people of fraudulent acts. They both made everybody fall into fear due to the guilty until they confess attitude, which ruled in the court. They grew primarily out of fear. They grew relentless in the persecution of their opposing groups. Their persecution of the opposing party pretty much walked over the rights of the citizens.
Legal infractions were held to a smaller degree than supporting the opposing party. Neither of these two needed much evidence to make an accusation and the Salem Witch Trials. Most of the allegations were just based on things that kids were seeing. In the United States, all people needed was a little association with indirect people in it. It was an extraordinary time, and many people were upset with the type of persecution that was happening. It is also considered that a lot of innocent people were persecuted. Both events regarded the victims as scapegoats for all the problems, leading to damaged reputations forever. Another similar thing is that McCarthy and Abigail both strongly believed that they were doing the right things and should keep doing that. Abigail and McCarthy were also highly respected initially, but their reputations were ruined at the events’ ends.
These citizens eventually downfall of the Trials and McCarthyism. Besides, The Salem Witch Trials and McCarthyism were happening to mass hysteria. That is why many people were listening and believing in McCarthy as people in Salem were to the girls baselessly. McCarthy’s and the girls substantiated claim ruined lives and led to increased hostility. In the McCarthy era, many people lost their jobs and were blackmailed, and in the Salem Witch Trials, many people were hanged and lost their relatives. In both Puritans and McCarthyism, the desire to maintain social order, based on the dominance of white possessed wealth, was powerful. The last thing is era was also characterized by solid conformation and little overt dissent.
McCarthyism and The Salem Witch Trials had many similar things that do not mean they do not have different specialties. One additional point that everyone can see that the time it happened. McCarthyism occurred from 1950 to 1954, while The Salem Witch Trials occurred about three hundred years ago (1692-1692). Besides as Salem Witch Trials, McCarthyism was the Trials between two political parties and was more about politics than religion. McCarthy accused people of being communists, whereas Abigail accused people of being witches. Another difference is that some first people accused of being witches were “outsiders” to those accused and practiced evil because they were different. Some people were not used to some of the things various people did, so they automatically figured they were associated with the Devil.
But in McCarthyism, some first people accused were “insiders” in the entertainment business who had connections with many people. So those people were charged with being communists because they were part of a vast and international industry. Besides, the one big difference between the two events was their punishment. The severity of penalties was a very much different landscape at the time. In McCarthyism, being in the US and being called a communist could result in jail time and blacklist from their occupation. Most of them came out with a bad reputation, whether or not they denied it. It was very severe buttons; meanwhile, Salem took it up a notch; being accused of witchcraft could result in immediate execution, hanging, and burning by the stake. An accusation of witchcraft was as good as a ticket to death row at that time.
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