How Was Arthur Miller Affected by McCarthyism?

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Arthur Miller was affected by McCarthyism in that he was subpoenaed to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, or HUAC, as were many of those in the entertainment industry of the era. His play “The Crucible,” though ostensibly about the Salem witch trials, was a veiled condemnation of McCarthy’s hunt for communists.

After Elia Kazan, who directed Miller’s play “Death of a Salesman,” testified before HUAC in 1952, Miller wrote “The Crucible,” creating an obvious allegorical parallel between HUAC and the Salem witch trials. In 1956, while trying to renew his passport, Miller was subpoenaed by HUAC. Miller agreed to testify after receiving a promise from Francis E. Walter, the HUAC chairman, that he would not have to name names of his colleagues. At the hearing, Walter reneged on his promise, and the committee demanded that Miller testify against others in the entertainment industry. When Miller refused, he was found in contempt of Congress, confronted with the decision of a fine or jail sentence, blacklisted from work and denied a passport. In 1958, the United States Court of Appeals overturned the conviction.

Ironically, despite Miller’s denunciation by HUAC, his works were banned in the Soviet Union in 1969 after he expressed his support for dissident Soviet writers.