Parallels Between the Crucible and Guilty by Suspicion Essay

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Crucible and Guilty by Suspicion

McCarthyism: The American Witch-Hunts

The fear of communism ran rampant amongst the United States during the late 1940s to 1950s; throughout the nation, the fear of communist spies infiltrating the country caused the Second Red Scare, which was spearheaded by Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy. This phenomenon became so well-publicized that its story has been immortalized in film and literature. Such is the case in Arthur Miller's 1952 play The Crucible and Irwin Winkler's 1991 film Guilty by Suspicion. In both McCarthyism-inspired stories, there is a degree of similarities within their thematic showcases of intolerance, hysteria, and reputation.

Both stories certainly have the underlying idea of intolerance, which is suffused in Miller's and Winkler's works. The authorities in The Crucible did not suffer witches, and those who were against the religious ideas of the community became ostracized and accused. In a poignant scene with Judge Danforth, one of the authoritative figures of the witch hunt trials in Salem, he remarks, "[A] person is either with this court or he must be counted against it," which shows the general opinion of those who've "strayed" from Protestantism. Likewise, the authorities in Guilty by Suspicion are relentless against those they deem to be part of the Communist party. In the film, Hollywood folk are blacklisted after having been named as communists. Similar to Danforth's role in The Crucible, Congressman Velde confronts David Merrill, crying out, "I wanna know how many [communists] you know, how many you've worked with. I wanna know what your association is with them." In both works, each authoritative group set out to condemn so-called witches and communists in order to "protect" their respective communities. For Miller, however, this intolerance is formed in a religious backdrop, and McCarthyism is hidden within the idea of witchcraft.
The Crucible set out to focus on a community, where religion and law were as one; that is, the community was a theocracy. On the other hand, Winkler's film fictionalizes a depiction of how the McCarthy period affected a Hollywood filmmaker and his friends. Guilty by Suspicion focuses on a different community; Hollywood, wherein the major concern was not a religious salvation, but that of being able to find jobs that would accept a so-called communist. While Winkler sought to use the same time period and the tales of the characters within the period, Miller reached back to the past, using witchcraft as his main allegory for the period of the Second Red Scare.

Another theme that both stories have in common is that of the panic and the hysteria wherein the society undergoes in order to purge themselves of the "unwanted" peoples. That said, hysteria seems to bring individuals to illogical conclusions; these people are so afraid and so blinded by this fear that they have no choice but to follow the crowd, even when they firmly believe otherwise. In The Crucible, the fear of witchcraft and satanic deals brought about hysteria within the Salem community, to the end where the citizens pointed fingers at even the most pious of their Protestant members. For example, Rebecca Nurse was accused and ultimately executed for witchcraft. However, many testimonies always placed Rebecca as an upstanding Salem citizen, a devout Protestant who did not even lose her own dignity as she was hanged to death. In the same vein, Guilty by Suspicion had Dorothy Nolan, a….....

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