The Crucible
Arthor Miller
Understand the cultural dynamics that caused
the McCarthy trials.
Understand the cultural dynamics that caused
the Salem Witch Trials.
Compare and contrast the causes of the two
Imagine that on last night’s State of the Union, the President stated that the
government had suspicions that there were Russian spies infiltrating
Middle Tennessee and that he has implemented a plan to find and prosecute
all suspected spies. The next morning, you and your family were awoken
by FBI agents forcefully entering your home and arresting all of you. They
didn’t tell you why, didn’t read you your rights, or give you a lawyer. Later
that day, shivering in the county jail, you find out that a few of the people
in your neighborhood believed that you all had direct ties with the Russian
government and had plans to overthrow the American way of life. What
would you do to get out of this situation? There is no solid evidence against
you, but the judges are positive you hate America and are ready to throw
you and your loved ones in prison forever…unless you confess your guilt
and give them the names of your “co-conspirators.” Would you stick to
your guns and proclaim your innocence no matter the consequences?
Would you rot in jail for your beliefs? Would you tell the prosecutors
names of people you know are innocent so that you could go free? If so,
who would you condemn? Why?
The Second Red Scare (1947-57)
Joseph R. McCarthy, U.S. senator
from Wisconsin from 1946 to his
death in 1957, burst on the public
scene in February 1950 with his
claim that Communists had
infiltrated the Department of State.
Even though his accusations were
never proved, during the next three
years, McCarthy charged many
government officials, members of
the media, and other prominent
figures with engaging in subversive
activities and having Communist
sympathies. The “witch hunt”
climaxed in April 1954, when
McCarthy accused the secretary of the
navy of sheltering Communist spies.
The secretary mounted a vigorous and
effective defense, which exposed
McCarthy’s ruthless tactics and
questionable motives. As a result,
McCarthy was censured by the Senate
and his influence declined.
McCarthyism is the political
action of making accusations of
disloyalty, subversion, or
treason without proper regard
for evidence. The term
specifically describes activities
associated with the period in the
United States known as the
Second Red Scare, lasting roughly
from the late 1940s to the late
1950s and characterized by
heightened fears of communist
influence on American institutions
and espionage by Soviet agents.
The Salem Witch Trials
In 1692, fear and suspicion
caused a slew of women and
men of Salem, Mass. to be
accused of witchcraft and
hanged based on nothing but
heresy. In total, 27 people
were convicted, 19 were
hanged, 1 was pressed to
death, and hundreds more
were jailed.
The Puritanical Way of Life
American Puritans valued self-reliance,
industriousness, temperance, and
The Puritans’ credo could possibly be
“Humans are sinful by nature; most are
damned for eternity; salvation belongs to
the elect, who can be identified by their
virtue; hard work and worldly success are
signs of God’s grace; people should live in
a thrifty, self-reliant, and simple way.”
The Puritans were also very fearful of the
devil and believed that he was a true being
of evil that could seduce good Puritans to
do evil things.
They demanded strict conformity:
dissenters were often flogged, banished, or
on occasion put to death.
Inspired by the acts of
suspicion and a trip to
Salem, Mass., Arthur Miller
wrote a play, The Crucible
(1953), that is an allegory
for the inquisition and
censure brought down on
innocent citizens by
McCarthy and those who
were seduced by
McCarthy’s fear.
Group Work
In groups, read documents
regarding The Second Red Scare
and The Salem Witch Trials.
Create a compare and contrast
chart like the one on the board.
Paraphrase and quote from the
documents in order to back up
your conclusions.
Find similarities and differences
in 5 of the 6 following categories:
Social climate, Cultural Beliefs,
Cultural Fears, Experts, Trial
Proceedings, Treatment of
Behavioral Expectations
Talk quietly in your groups. There should
be a small hum coming from our room,
not a roar. I should not be able to hear
individual conversations.
Respect everyone’s opinions.
Participation is key! This activity will be
counted as class work. If I see that you are
not working, then you will receive one
warning. If you are still not
participating/helping your group then you
will receive a zero in the grade book. (This
will be individualized. The group will not
be punished for one person’s lack of
I will be playing music quietly during
group work. When the music stops, so
does the group work. This means that
everyone should quit what they are doing
and become quiet.
We will share our findings after group
work is finished.
What did you find out?
Review Objectives
Understand the cultural dynamics that caused
the McCarthy trials.
Understand the cultural dynamics that caused
the Salem Witch Trials.
Compare and contrast the causes of the two
Get Arthur Miller’s The Crucible
Write a paragraph about a modern situation
that reminds you of the McCarthy trials and
the Salem Witch trials. (A paragraph meaning:
five full sentences or longer, with a clear topic
sentence, and a clear closing sentence. Make
sure there aren’t any run-on sentences of
fragments since we have been talking about
them for the last week!)