The Crucible as an Allegory of the Witch Trial
With more than 200 people accused and 20 people executed, the Salem Witch trials became a serious case that lasted throughout history inspiring authors like Arthur Miller to write a play based on this issue. Miller wrote The Crucible as an allegory of the Witch Trials to compensate for the problems that he faced during the Mccarthy Era. His main goal was to present the issues of the Hollywood ten to the public; in order to do so, Miller changed a few aspects of his characters to symbolize and represent some of the members convicted in the Hollywood ten. Due to his actions, this topic became highly debatable as Miller recreated aspects of history that could influence the reputations of the characters changed. However, I believe that Miller has the right to do so since The Crucible is his own work of historical fiction used to spread a message of a larger situation during the McCarthy Era. McCarthyism was mainly started by a man named Joseph McCarthy. A republican from the senate, who wants to get reelected, McCarthy resorted to using a different political strategy of targeting the communist party in order to gain followers. During this time period, of 1950, there was a rising fear in the US that anyone with any affiliation with the Communist Party was a potential threat. McCarthy used this fear to his advantage as he soon claim to possess a list of the names of 205 people who were members of the American Communist Party.
Furthermore, another group known as the HUAC had a similar goal of investigating communist and fascist organizations. Anyone who was deemed suspicious became a potential threat and was questioned about their political activities. In 1956, Arthur Miller was subpoenaed by the HUAC; with ten more people who were known as the Hollywood Ten. Miller refused to name anyone else who was involved in subversive political activities and this soon led him to write the Crucible. With the Crucible, Miller was able to relate the current issues with that of the Salem Witch Trials as both relate to mass hysteria and speculations of one another. Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible as an allegory to the McCarthy Era mainly as historical fiction. Since the book is under this certain genre, I believe Miller has the right to change any detail he deems fit for his novel. His goal is to appeal and spread the message as he uses minor changes to attract readers. These changes include people like Giles Corey. In real life, Corey was a hostile man who accused his own wife of witchcraft while in the book, he was portrayed in a better light giving him a better reputation as a character.
How it works
Furthermore, during the actual Witch Trials, Giles went against his own wife but when he himself was accused, he realized the cruel reality as the witch Trials is nothing but a fraud. According to the facts on the files website, it stated, Of all the victims of the Salem witchcraft hysteria, none died a worse death than 80-year old Giles Corey. Corey made a strange martyr. Like most people of his day, he believed in evil spirits and had originally accused his wife of witchcraft. Corey was then pressed with stones in order to confess but refused which is different from the way Miller reflected his character. In the book, Corey was a naive man who mistaken his wife’s actions that led her to accusations but he was shown as a tragic hero when he refused to bail his friends out and was stoned to death. The main reason for Miller’s change is to compare Corey to Edward Dmytrix, one of the Hollywood Ten because in comparison, both people refused to give the names of their accomplices which led them to severe punishments. According to the Mock Trials of Arthur Miller, Edward Dmytrix states his opinion on the case, I believe Arthur Miller has the right to change history because he is trying to spread a larger message.
Miller modified characters like Corey in order to relate the Witch Trials directly to the McCarthy era in which every character in the book is an allegory to a member of the Hollywood Ten. Furthermore, Arthur Miller has more reasons to change details in history due to his note on historical accuracy. Miller’s main reason for including this note is because he didn’t want people trying to learn the history of the Witch Trials to read his book and assume that it represents real events. According to Miller’s note of historical accuracy, he stated, All the characters present in the Crucible’ are taken and based on the Salem witch trial of 1692; either exact or closely similar to the actual people from that time period. He also used many of the characters for dramatic purposes so he can keep the readers enthralled. According to Miller’s note, dramatic purposes have sometimes required many characters to be fused into one. This meant that the dramatic purposes are used to symbolize and keep the readers entertained which lets him transmit his personal message. Since he included this note, he wanted to make it evident that he wasn’t trying to rewrite history. Instead, he wanted to develop his characters to fit the play which was a statement about McCarthyism more than retelling the Salem Witch Trials.
Miller’s permutations were meant to appeal not to be historically accurate. As stated before, Miller made these minor changes to make sense of his own life and times. Furthermore, one of Miller’s primary messages of the play is how government can move away from the interests of many and become a force to serve the agendas of the few. In his book, the government is depicted without any type of check or limitation as many people accused didn’t have any recourse nor can they engage in any self-defense as the government became a tool for a few to take advantage of. Miller is warning to take a stand when their government is operated to contradict the majority of public interest. He believes that there must be some sort of check and boundary to place otherwise the power of the few can be used to their profit due to the condition of silent complicity. By giving a specific warning to connect all of his distinct messages, revision in character is rather a small issue for the broader image that needs to be heard of the many.
To add on, Miller has the right to write anything he wants due to the first amendments which grant him to right of speech and rights. Miller should therefore be allowed to make any changes he felt necessary since it’s his own work to symbolize his perspectives. However, many opposing Miller’s rights to change history claim that he doesn’t have the right to do so because his adjustments will negatively impact the reputation of those in the Witch Trials. The opposing side further states that the changes will damage the life of future generations. But contrary to that ideology, Miller’s clear statement of his work being fictional gives enough evidence to back up his rights. Additionally, since its a fiction, the reputation of the many shouldn’t be devastated since the readers will acknowledge that changes were made in order to connect the book as a whole. Also, the future generations of those in the Witch Trials wouldn’t be impacted in any way whatsoever since the Trials took place three centuries ago which makes it difficult to seek their later descendants. Overall, Miller has the right to change and influence characters in his point of view in order to get a certain point across. Overall, with this evidence, Miller should not be condemned guilty for his actions but rather innocent because he has many reasons to change the aspect of his book. With the freedom of speech, Miller should not face any legal issues and with a broader message in mind, a tweak in character wouldn’t be a major problem.
- Infobase Learning – Login, online.infobase.com/HRC/Search/Details/2?articleId=201342&q=giles%2Bcorey.
- Achter, Paul J. McCarthyism. Encyclop?¦dia Britannica, Encyclop?¦dia Britannica, Inc., 25 Oct. 2018, www.britannica.com/topic/McCarthyism.
- The Crucible vs Real Life – 766 Words. Study Guides and Book Summaries, 5 Apr. 2017, freebooksummary.com/the-crucible-vs-real-life-22431.
- Whittaker, Duke. The Differences between The Crucible’ and the Real Salem Wi. Prezi.com, 6 Mar. 2014, prezi.com/g1yo9kcusmys/the-differences-between-the-crucible-and-the-real-salem-wi/.
- Dmytrix, Edward. Mock Trials of Arthur Miller. Staten Island Technical High School, 7 November 18, New York. Mock Trials.