Why Did Arthur Miller Write “The Crucible”?

Mraz Center for the Performing Arts/CC-BY-2.0

Arthur Miller wrote “The Crucible” as a commentary or parable on the United States during the McCarthy Era of the 1950s. It is written as historical fiction, however, through the play, Miller illuminated how the social injustice of the Puritan’s witchcraft trials was no different than what was unfolding around him during the McCarthy Era.

Arthur Miller saw people he knew being accused by Senator Joseph McCarthy and decided to create a social commentary through his play, “The Crucible.” A common theme in most of Miller’s plays is the personal and social responsibility to stand up to injustice from family and society.

During the Cold War, Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy led speeches, campaigns and trials against suspected Communists in the government, armed forces and even Hollywood. He used his accusatory techniques to stir up the country to paranoia, much like what happened with the witchcraft trails in Salem. McCarthy fed off of the public’s fear of Communists to increase his popularity. Later, it was revealed he falsely accused many people, just like in Salem. In the 1950s “McCarthyism” came to refer to McCarthy’s accusatory tactics and the general atmosphere of fear during the Cold War. Today the term “McCarthyist” refers to someone who slanders a political opponent’s character with baseless attacks.