Arthur Miller,the Crucible and McCarthyism
Arthur Miller's response to theMcCarthy anti-Communist hysteria: a period of conflict in the USA in the 1950s,was to write the Crucible. He created an allegory to present the conflict, inwhich he was personally involved, to his contemporaries. In his play, heexamined the witchcraft trials in Salem. In 1692, which he saw as having manyparallels to his own experience. In creating a comparison between both theevents which occurred and the dilemmas faced by those directly involved, he wasable to thinly disguise the identities of acquaintances, while simultaneouslypresenting his views about the injustice which he believed had occurred. Hisplay is still very relevant as an examination of the way in which ordinarypeople can courageously confront unjust authority and the importance ofprotecting personal integrity.

  1. What was the crime of Elia Kazan? Elia Kazan was a member of the communist party years before he was prosectued. HUAC decalred that Kazan would never be allowed to direct another Hollywood film if he did not name advocates of the party, such as other writers, directors and actors.
  2. Why did Arthur Miller and Elia Kazan come into conflict? Kazan cooperated with HUAC, and effectivley gave Miller's name in reutrn for his reacceptance into society
  3. What was the relationship between Miller and Kazan prior to the McCarthy period? Miller describes the two as old friends, yet they would only talk when regarding work.
  4. What was the response of the former friends to the conflict? Miller recalls not filling up with hate or contempt for Kazan, as his suffering was palpable. Miller found it outrageous when such fictitious confessions were forced out of the prosectued.
  5. How did the social values of America in the 50s contribute to the conflict? How did the depression contribute to the values of Miller and Kazan? In the play,society's values also play a role. What are these values and their effects?
  6. What was the role of bureaucracy / authority in the conflict? What is the parallel with this play? Despite being seperated by 250 years, both events display the critical importance of unmatched power weighted in favour of the authorative entities. The politcal bodies of the 1690's and 1950's both pretentious qualities, as their practical and theoretical reputation was crucial to their success.
  7. How could the discrediting of HUAC, Hollywood 10, blacklisting, be seen to be paralleled in the play? Both in the play and in the communist hysteria of the 1950's, a large proportion of the indicted would refuse to comply with the authorative powers of the court, instead opting for honesty and dignity. After a perioid of time, in both era, regular citizens became aware of the unjustified hearings, and governing bodies quickly discredited the hearings to avoid social rebellion.
  8. How was the loyalty of ordinary people tested in both situations? The accused would be pressured into complying with the authorative body, often at the detriment of honesty. The loyalty of indicted person was tested in their ability to resist naming confederates to win forgiveness and readmission into regular society.
  9. What dilemma did Kazan face with regard to the house un-American activities committee? What was his stance in his first appearance? How did this affect him? What extra pressure was placed on him?
  10. What were the ensuring events at the subsequent Oscars? kazan was awarded an oscar for life award, although many people were oblivious to the fact that HUAC had an influence in ushc a desicion, as Kazan was not put on a 'black-list' due to his cooperation with the group.
  11. How did Kazan perceive a silent position on communism?
  12. Kazan and Miller discuss the upcoming trial, but years later saw the event verydifferently. How?
  13. How was Kazan's next appearance before HUAC differ from the first? How did he justify what he did? What parallel could be drawn between the significance of the naming of names by Kazan and John Proctor? What were the differences? How did others respond?
  14. What was the response of Arthur Miller? How did it contribute to his writing of theCrucible?
  15. What role does hysteria play in both events?
  16. Explain the metaphor connecting Salem and the McCarthy witch hunts. How does theCrucible also reflect Miller's own personal moral conflict?
  17. How was the Crucible received by the audience? Initially the Crucible was a failure; the audience didn't understand the title 'the crucible' while critics were sceptical about approving a play that portrays the same 'sanctified procedural principles' that were present in the hunt of communists.
  18. How was guilt by association seen in the McCarthy era and the play?
  19. How does John Proctor's private and public betrayal reflect both Kazan's and Miller's conflicts?
  20. How did the critical response to the Crucible reflect the dangerous times it wasproduced in?
  21. What was the personal and professional cost of Kazan's testimony to him? What does this show us about involvement in conflict for its participants?
  22. What was Kazan's final revenge?
  23. How ultimately has history judged Miller and Kazan?

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