Why should Queensland high school students study ‘The Crucible’?
Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ is based upon the Salem Witch Trials which occurred in the year 1692. The text also serves as an allegorical warning about much more recent events, in particular the McCarthy Trials of 1953. The McCarthy Trials were exploring communism. ‘The Crucible’ was written to highlight the similarities between McCarthyism and communism in the 1950’s in the United States of America and the witch hunts of Europe in the 17th century. The play is literally written about the witch trials but it is figuratively about the society Miller lived in, in 1953. Thousands of Americans were accused of being communists like in ‘The Crucible’; hundreds of the town’s people were accused of being witches. Three major ideologies that are still relevant in society today are evident in the play, intolerance, mass hysteria and reputation. The study of ‘The Crucible’ in the English curriculum today is extremely relevant because most of the beliefs and ideologies used are also still relevant in society. ‘The Crucible’ is set in a theocratic society, in which the church and the state are known to be one and the religion is very strict. In Salem everything and everyone belongs to either God or the Devil. As Danforth says in Act III, “a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it.” The witch trials are the ultimate expression of intolerance and hanging witches is the best means of restoring the community’s purity. The ideology of intolerance also links to the McCarthy Trials in the sense that there was a large amount of intolerance against communism in the United States in the early 1950’s. This evidence strongly supports that ‘The Crucible’ should be studied in contemporary Queensland High Schools. Another critical ideology in ‘The Crucible’ is the role that mass hysteria can play in tearing apart a community. In ‘The Crucible’ the town’s people accept and become a part of the...
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