A person will do crazy things when put in a crazy environment. People get scared, they do things they wouldn’t do normally if they had time to think. But they don’t have time to think, because fingers are pointed at them, and the only way to save themselves is to point another finger. There is evidence for that exact behavior in America during both the 1600s and the 1900s, during the witch trials and the rise of communism respectively. No book better compares the two time periods and analyzes the psychology of the people at the times than The Crucible, by Arthur Miller. Miller, who lived during the 1950s and the Red Scare, had both knowledge and personal experience to compile into a book about fear. I will show how Arthur Miller compared the two time periods, how they are similar and different.
The Crucible analyzes a mostly Christian society of Salem, Oregon of America during the 1600s, and describes the manifestation of chaos in the small town as more and more fingers are pointed at suspected witches. One of the very first to point a finger is Abigail. She, the mother and controller of the fear created, pointed fingers first to save her life, but then for her own personal gain. She mentioned Tituba, who was confronted, and in turn started spewing out lies about the other townsfolk, suggesting they were witches and Satan worshipers, thus starting the cycle again.
Jumping to the 1900s, the same thing was happening, although on a larger scale. Communism was on the rise, and communist nations were imposing themselves upon America. Sympathizing with the Communists was comparable to sympathizing with the Devil in Salem. Any hint of treason, any slip of the tongue, any false suspicion could end up with someone in the jail house in both time periods. A person had to watch what he said, and his words had to be chosen wisely as to avoid multiple interpretations of his opinions.
It is important to note that are some differences between the witch trials and the red scares. They were based off of similar ideas, but they certainly weren’t identical. The main difference is the fact that Communism was actually somewhat of a threat to America, and it was much more real than the witch trials. There were Communist spies within America, unlike the witches, who were wholly made up. America and the Soviet Union both had nuclear missiles, which could completely annihilate the world, something that the witch doom sayers couldn’t imagine. However, the fear was still escalated to an over the top amount that should have been controlled.
The Crucible is a dive into the human mind, showing how they have not changed over 300 years, still blaming one another when put into a fearful situation. Witches and Communists, with some small differences, are very similar in most respects. Fear was multiplied exponentially without reason in both cases, and some people took advantage of that fear in both cases as well. One could say that even today, a different witch or communist hunt is happening against the terrorists. I would say that it is not on the level of the past times, but it is there, on a smaller level. Let us hope that it never escalates to that again.