The Crucible, Puritans, McCarthy and more...

  • In 1692, Salem, Massachusetts was the site of the Salem Witch Trials.  During these events, numerous members of the community were accused and then found guilty of consorting with the Devil and witchcraft based on flimsy testimony and dubious evidence. In actuality, there may not have been any crime committed.  However, the general population, using "mob mentality", was determined to find someone guilty and many innocent people had charges levied against them for a variety of reasons, including preservation of society, misuse of power, suppression of individualism, or for retaliation and revenge.  “It was...a long overdue opportunity for everyone so inclined to express publicly his guilt and sins, under the cover of accusations against the victims...One could not ordinarily speak such things in public” (Miller 7). These  events give rise to the saying "witch-hunts", which indicate situations which shares similarities. 

    The play, The Crucible, attempts to  draw parallels between  the "witch-hunts" of 1692 and the state of America in 1953.  His attention is set on the McCarthyism of that time and the Red Scare, which judged the "secret intent" of perceived communists and their subversion of American ideals.   The results of his Congressional committee, HUAC, ruined the lives and careers of the accused.  Many of these individuals, in order to save themselves and appear on the side of "America", gave the names of colleagues and compatriots.  In doing so, fear and suspicion tested loyalties and splintered friendships. 

    The purpose in reading the play is not just to learn about a dramatic witch-trial.  It is to recognize from where some of these attitudes come, how they serve the accusers, and how people are victimized by pre-judgements.  Morality, politics, and society are complex and interconnected. Students of the play should cast a critical eye on contemporary times and seek to identify where modern witch-hunts persecute groups for religious, behavioral, or political reasons and that perversion of justice exist. 

    Clarifications on your Summative Annotation Assignment

    The directions for your summative annotation assignment are linked below.  However, some students have asked for further clarification. You will select one piece of writing to annotate from each category, plus one more.  So, two pieces will come from one category.  These categories include:

    Puritan Literature--
    You are looking to annotate as directed in the original instructions, but make sure to emphasize how they connect with The Crucible
    • Of Plymouth Plantation
    • To My Dear and Loving Husband
    • Huswifery
    • A Father's Resolutions
    • Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
    Native American Origin Myths--
       For these, you should identify some archetypes that figure between the legends.  That is, how are they similar? It will be difficult to tie these to The Crucible, but consider highlighting how the stories highlight possible Native American values that contrast with those of the Puritans. 
    • The Earth on Turtle's Back
    • When Grizzlies Walked Upright
    • The Navajo Origin Legend
    Post 9/11 articles
    You are looking to distinguish a historical parallel between the witch-hunts of The Crucible and McCarthyism, and a more contemporary experience by a particular group of people.
    •  Hate Crimes Against Muslims Most Since 9/11 Era
    • What 9/11 Wrought


    When citing lines from this play, you would cite them exactly as you would if you were citing text from any prose piece of writing. (book, article, journal).  That is, use the author's name and page number. 

    ex  Thomas Putnam is the first to make the connection between the girls' sickness, and his use of the word "providence" seems to indicate that it has come from God when he states, "It is a providence the thing is out now! It is a providence" (Miller 13).

    --This next part is somewhat irrelevant to your task, but you may see it if you have done your own research on how to cite from a play. If you are citing significant dialogue of more than four lines, use the following directions: 

    Indent the speakers one inch from the left margin. All other lines are indented one and a quarter inches. The speakers should be written in all capital letters, followed by a period. Include stage directions as they appear in the original source. Cite the page number as you would for any other quoted prose

    ex.   Thomas Putnam is the first to make the connection between the girls' sickness, and his use of the word "providence" seems to indicate that it has come from God:

    PUTNAM. It is a providence the thing is out now! It is a providence. (13)

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