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The Salem Witch Trials and McCarthyism

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This statement coincides with the idea that history repeats itself. A perfect example of this is the similarities between the Salem Witch Trials and McCarthyism. The Salem Witch Trials were portrayed in the novel, The Crucible. Arthur Miller wrote this novel during the McCarthy era. Arthur Miller was put on trial for communism in the same fashion of many during the Salem Witch Trials. Many of the characters in Arthur Miller’s play are similar to people from his time as well as the similarity of both mass publics of the two times.

The first similarity between characters is Abigail and Senator McCarthy. Abigail and Senator McCarthy played similar roles in the hysteria of the masses by accusing others of something hard to prove. Senator McCarthy accused many of belonging to the communist party and Abigail accused many of witchcraft. “I saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw Goody Osburn with the Devil! I saw Bridget Bishop with the Devil!”(The Crucible Page 48) Abigail cried this in the first Act of The Crucible. Once Abigail told on a person, if they admitted to witchcraft to avoid death they could not find work or gain their good name back.

In a similar way Senator McCarthy would tell on others through a list that was dubbed the “Black List”. If one was put on the black list, one would be fired and then it was nearly impossible for one to find work. Both Abigail and Senator McCarthy craved power and obtained it by their accusations. They both continued their accusatory ways at many others’ expense because they were getting closer to their goals. Senator McCarthy had an endless goal of more power, popularity and fame. Abigail had a single goal which was to win John Proctor’s heart. She wanted to have him and to have his wife dead. Senator McCarthy obtained his goal while Abigail did not.

Secondly, John Proctor and Arthur Miller were also similar in many ways. John Proctor and Arthur Miller were both put on trial. John was put on trial for witchcraft while Arthur Miller was put on trial for being a communist. While on trial Arthur Miller was asked to give names of other communists but he would not. Likewise, John Proctor while attempting to confess to save his life was asked for names of witches but he would not say any. This shows they both were loyal to their friends and would not rat them out even if it meant achieving a lesser punishment for them.

The last similarity involves society of both times. Both in Salem and in the United States of America hysteria caught on and quickly. The fear rose throughout the Salem in 1692 and in the United States in the 1960’s. Everyone was suspicious of each other and very few were willing to stay loyal to one another. In both times the people became introverted for fear of their lives. The bribing of those on trial discussed in the paragraph preceding this were present in both Salem and in the United States. Neither the Salem Witch Trials nor the communist trials had concrete proof for their convictions.

Both trials have similarities and similar characters. After two different eras and two different types of accusations hopefully the world has learned to trust rather than to accuse. Perhaps the following generations will take both eras as something to learn from and not something to repeat.

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