The Red Scare And The Salem Witch

America has experienced mass hysteria more than once in its history. The Salem witch trials is the earlier example of hysteria. They took place in Massachusetts during 1692 and 1693. During the witch trials more than 200 people were accused of witchcraft, and 20 were executed. Later on during the early 1950’s america was tangled into the second Red Scare. The Red Scare was a period of time where people lived in constant fear and paranoia that they were being influenced and controlled by communist in between 1917 and 1920. They believed they were hidden everywhere and had higher jobs in schools and government positions. The Red Scare was resurrected during the Cold War and reached its height between 1950 and 1954 when Senator Joseph McCarthy proclaimed there were communist in the State Department, the White House, the Treasury, and the US Army. Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible in 1953 and clearly connects the Red Scare to the Salem witch trial. He does this through underlying similarities between the main antagonist Abigail Williams to McCarthy during his own time period. They both take advantage of power by using current events to gain fame and respect, they accused innocent people, and made accusations with inadequate evidence.

Abigail and Senator McCarthy both started off unrespected in their societies. Abigail was the ministers niece and was never respected because she was a woman. Senator McCarthy was disrespected and had even been voted as the worst Senator in Washington. It is evident that McCarthy then used the current tensions of the Cold War to pull himself out of his deposition and into fame and respect. Only one day after his devastating label of being the worst senator was attached to him he “dropped a bombshell: ‘The State Department is infested with communist’” (Roberts 1). This rocketed his national prominence and associated his name with all future communist investigations. Abigail did the exact same thing with the witch trials. She used the puritain fear of satan to set herself as God's instrument to accuse witches. This set her above all the other members in society and made her a key role in all court trials. McCarthry and Abigail both took advantage of the people's worst fears and made a name for themselves through stimulating it.

During their reigns, the duo used the power of their positions to accused innocent people. They were able to do this because people were in a constant state of fear and inclined to believe in the worst. The people of these times had similar mindsets, “a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there is no road between” (Miller 96) and “many who do not cooperate with the investigating committees were blacklisted” (Roberts 2). This allowed them to keep constant control and accuse any who opposed them or their power. This often resulted in them falsely accusing and convicting innocent people. Abigail imprisoned over 150 innocent people and Senator McCarthy initially accused 205 people within the State Department.

McCarthry and Abigail were also very similar in the sense that they accuse many without having substantial evidence against them. McCarthy never released the names of the people he accused and he refused to produce reasonable and coherent evidence against them. Likewise Abigail never produced any material or realistic evidence against those she accused. All that did not plead guilty were assumed guilty anyway, “one calls upon witnesses to prove his innocence. But witchcraft is ipso facto… an invisible crime...who may possibly be witness to it? The witch and the victim. None other.” (Miller 100). This gave Abigail free barings to accuse whomever she wished without evidence. In both cases this is an abuse of power over the people, giving little opportunity to defend themselves.

High power and corruption go hand in hand. Senator Joseph McCarthy and Abigail Williams took advantage of fear and used it to create their own fame and power. In an urgency to uphold their standings they accused innocent people without question. They also abused their power by accusing those people without the need of significant evidence. Arther Miller was able to make a clear connection between the time periods through these to individuals and created undoubted similarities between their actions. Senator Joseph McCarthy and Abigail William clearly abuse their power and use fear as a method of control. 

07 July 2022
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