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The Salem Witch Trials
by Arthur Miller
About Arthur Miller (relevant author background) • Born and raised in NYC in 1915 --- Depression and major financial losses caused family to have to relocate from Manhattan to Brooklyn • High school dropout • Convinced U of Michigan to accept him w/o a diploma where he honed writing skills
Most of Miller’s plays focus on the dilemma of common people pitted against powerful and unyielding social forces
Famous works • All My Sons – Actions in WWII bring about end of man’s family • Death of a Salesman – Excessive focus on material success • The Crucible – Inspired by hysteria created by political climate of Mc. Carthyism (communist infiltration of US institutions) • The Misfits – Screenplay; featured Marilyn Monroe…HIS WIFE
Historical Context (connections to history) Puritans of 1600 s Salem Witchcraft Trials America in 1950 s Mc. Carthyism
Puritanism & Theocracy • No separation between the church and state. • Religion is the LAW • Those who violate religious rules are persecuted and could be prosecuted
The Mc. Carthy Era • Began in 1950 out of growing fears that Communism was spreading • Senator Joseph Mc. Carthy charged that the State Department had been infiltrated by more than 200 communists • Created an atmosphere of fear and suspicion throughout the ENTIRE U. S.
Where’s the evidence? • Even though there was no evidence of his accusations found, Mc. Carthy refused to retract his statements • Instead he went on radio and TV to further his claims that some governmental officials were engaged in subversive activities • Here’s the catch…he was a Republican & Democrats controlled the Senate in 1950
HUAC House Un-American Activities Committee • In 1952, Rep. gain control of Senate and appoint Mc. Carthy chairman of a permanent investigation committee • Interrogated people publicly, revealing their private lives • Committee demanded to know the names of those involved in communist activities or even those who agreed remotely with communist ideas
• No concrete evidence was ever found but the ramifications were horrible. • Hollywood Ten (Blacklist) – Click here to read article related to Hollywood Censorship • Many government officials lost their jobs and the nation was in a near state of hysteria • Link to Walt Disney’s Testimony
• Miller was called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, and convicted of contempt of Congress for not cooperating
Can you think of modern day hysteria created by some accusations that may have not been true? Who was affected? How so? What were the results? Has there been lasting impact?
As we read The Crucible • Look for ways this story is like the Mc. Carthy Era • Think about the main theme Miller is trying to state • Symbols in the text