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The Crucible - Summary Arthur Millers The Crucible takes a hard look at some of the ugliest moments in American history He uses the actual historical event of the Salem witch trials to serve as a metaphorical representation of the pressure to conform to societal norms The theocratic government of Salem Massachusetts serves as an apt symbol of the pressure to conform Religion provides an interpretation of reality for its worshippers who live their lives according to its ideology Those who have the ability to define reality--and make others live by that definition--become extremely powerful individuals Exploiting religion to reinforce the primacy of ones definition of reality is an old strategy in the struggle for power The Salem witch trials were well over two hundred years in the past when Miller wrote The Crucible but the self-righteous spirit of persecution that drove them was alive and well The McCarthyites were out in full force rooting out culprits in the Red scare The House Un- American Activities Committee took it upon themselves to define the essence of the American The good American citizen was fiercely loyal to everything American--which of course was defined by the very same committee To this committee anti-American meant Communist and it set out to discover everyone who had anything to do with the Communist Party in the United States Individuals could not resist the invasive questioning of the committee without staining their names with suspicion of guilt Recovering ones good name required that the individual name other people who were Communists or had been involved in Communist activities The hysteria of the Red Scare demanded conformity just as stringently as the theocratic government of Salem Massachusetts The Crucible is more than a metaphor for the pressure to conform in American culture The language of the Salem witch trials and the investigations of the House Un-American Activities Committee tend to make use of the metaphors of
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