Crucible Essay: the Fear of Power

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The Fear of Power

Fear can be a profoundly persuasive tool. Looking back at the Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692, and later on in the McCarthy trials, you can determine that fear was a ruling factor in the behavior of those involved. Arthur Miller was unmistaken when he stated in Why I wrote The Crucible: An Artist’s Answer to Politics by Arthur Miller that “fear doesn’t travel well; …it can warp judgment” (1). The fear that was instilled upon the people of Salem was that if anyone opposed the trials they were not only accused of overthrowing the court, they were also accused of overthrowing God – provoking charges of witchcraft. By using biblical allusions, Parris’ eager pursuit for “justice,” and Abigail’s vindictive actions Miller demonstrates through The Crucible that the application of power can instill so much fear in others that they succumb to submitting to immoral beliefs.

To understand the background of the The Crucible the political and social conditions of the time period the play was written must be taken into account. During the 1940s and 1950s Communism was an issue that was spreading from Eastern countries causing Americans to be fearful of its encroachment onto US soil. With the Soviet Union gaining more power the possibility of contention, or worse, was a disquieting actuality for many Americans. After China was taken ahold of by a Communist leader and when Western Europe seemed ready to become predominantly Communist, US citizens began to feel that Communism had the potential to envelope them. This internal unrest helped pave the way for Senator Joseph McCarthy to take advantage of the situation and claim that the State Department “was full of treasonous pro-Soviet intellectuals” (1). The subsequent McCarthy trials essentially paralleled the Salem trials that took place nearly two and a half centuries prior. Those who opposed power were ultimately punished.

When Miller introduces Reverend Parris in a dramatic exposition he explains...
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