Essay on The Salem Witch Trials

The Salem witch trials of 1692 took place in Salem, Massachusetts. Overall, 141 people were arrested as 19 were hanged and one person crushed to death. Researchers describe the Salem witch trials as a series of court trials that were aimed at prosecuting persons who had been accused of witchcraft. The trials took place between 1692 and 1693  .

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Prior hearings of the Salem witch trials were carried out in several different towns. The major trial was conducted by the Court of Oyer and Terminer situated in Salem town  . Several people were rounded up and charged with witchcraft. Some of those arrested died in prison. Of the accused, 14 women and 5 men were hanged.
There were fears about religious extremists as many critics perceived witchcraft as being counterproductive. Many problems within the society were attributed to the witches living in the town of Salem. At the time of their arrest, most of them were found with things believed to be used to propagate their activities.
Causes of the trials
There were about 600 residents in Salem town that conflicted with one group arguing that they had the right to remain in the town as farming families and the other to settle on the eastern side of the rich suburban town of Salem. The thriving economy of Salem town that was mainly a farming community made it to be perceived as being individualistic.
The individualism was clashing with the communal nature of Puritanism. The Putnams felt that the large farming families were completely isolated from the rest of the town and amassed a large quantity of wealth. The Putnams were acknowledged leaders of a separatist group. This separatist group owned most of the farming land in Salem village. The Putnams felt the need to form a congregation that would indeed unite them within Salem. In 1689, the religious congregation was formed under the lead of Reverend Parris  .
This religious congregation only represented a small group of the populace in Salem as most of the members were Putnams. Two factions had emerged within the religious congregation. These factions were basically divided on the basis of the contract under which Reverend Parris was employed to conduct the church affairs.
Ministers in the religious groups at the time were often granted lots of fringe benefits to go along with their heavy salaries, such as free houses and use of firewood  . It is believed that Reverend Parris received this and much more, hence creating questions as to why he was being accorded such kind of treatment. Reverend Parris salary was paid by the local tax payers. Critics who did not support this, often mumbled in silence hence creating and deepening the already existing crevice with the religious organization in which Reverend Parris was the main leader.
Most Puritans believed in witchcraft as the source of power to harm others. They further believed that the witchcraft was entering partnership with the devil in exchange for certain evil powers in order to propagate their evil activities. Therefore, the religious sect who lived in the same town of Salem was against witchcraft as they considered it as a sin  . It is also believed that most Puritans were against the Church of England and opposed most of their doctrines. As a result, enmity was created between the Puritans and the Church of England at the time. This culminated into frequent conflicts between the Puritans and the church members who often level accuses against each other. The puritans did not buy any of the traditions that the church was conducted.
It was this religious divide that fueled the Salem witchcraft trial of 1692 that led to the killing of several witches within the town, most of who were Puritans.
There was a huge political divide in Salem between the English settlers in the east and their opponents who were large farming families. They made several attacks on each other with considerable casualties being reported. In 1692 when the new Governor was elected, he had many issues to settle. He initiated the commission of special court known as the court of Oyer and Terminer which was charged with the responsibility of handling the increasing number of people who were accused at the time  .
Farming was often the main cause of dispute between neighbors and families. As families grew in size, so did their farming land. Most of the farming land pushed forward into the wild, thus causing tension to the conflict that was already brewing. Drought or change in weather could easily wipe out a year’s crop without much consideration. This resulted in tension. Religious tension made this worse as many Puritans believed that God had advanced his wrath on man due to his sinful nature  . This belief made many people fear the actions of those who were against God. Therefore, many religious groups such as the Church of England advocated for the elimination of witches from the Salem society in order to enjoy a good bumper harvest and experience rain.
Moreover, the social status that the Puritans accorded to the women did not help much as the women were believed to be devil’s servants. The Puritans’ perception about women increased the tension that had already built within the community leading to conflict in beliefs, one of the foundations that the Salem trials were based upon.
Children were discouraged from playing and generally living a social life among the Puritans. They were the least valued. Similarly, girls were restricted from social groupings and activities in the belief that they would be used by the devil at a tender age. Women were generally not allowed to own land and in most cases land reverted to the previous owner if the husband died. Witch-hunting became a sport and a daily norm among the Puritans in order to acquire property. The effects of this on the society were far reaching.
Preconceived ideas of witches
There were several preconceived ideas about withes in the Salem village. Most people believed that witches were the main cause of crop failure and drought. This was because, witches often performed certain acts which could reverse the nature of climate change and bring about rain  . The Puritans were revered for their activities involving witch-hunting. Witches were thus believed to poses the power to ill other people and even make their lives difficult.
Furthermore, there was a wide belief that the witches were often in contact with the devil and could order any kind of destruction upon their targets with impunity. In fact, most of the illness and attacks during the 17th century were attributed to the powers of the witches  .
In addition, witches were believed to be anti-Christian in nature since they derived their powers from the devil and destroyed other people’s lives. The Salem society believed that witches should be killed. Therefore, the offence of witchcraft carried the death sentence automatically and without the option of appealing.
Analysis of the accusers and their motivations of targeting certain people
Most of the accusers of witches were mainly the religious organizations which indeed were against the activities of the witches in Salem during the 17th century. The Puritans were increasingly becoming aggressive and threatened the very existence of humanity due to their social beliefs about women and children  . Moreover, the Puritans were against the traditions practiced by the church. The witches often laid accusations upon the church’s conduct hence creating tension whenever they were illuminated within the Salem village.
In addition, most of the large farming families also accused the witches of crop failure and drought. The powers of the witches were believed to cause deaths in children and livestock. Farming was the main economic activity that the people of Salem practiced  . Therefore, it farming failed then life became subsequently very difficult for them considering that they often had very large families.
Reverend Parris who was a church minister was also an accuser of the witches. His daughter and niece had epileptic fits that were beyond any normal comprehension. Following this, three witches were arrested and arraigned in court to be charged with inflicting such evil upon the children. The arrested individuals were Puritans and were charged with witchcraft.
On February 1692, Betty Parris, the daughter of the leader of the religious covenant organization, became strangely ill  . Critics were quick to point out that this was a result of witchcraft that had been directed towards the minister’s home. What made the belief worse was the fact that Reverend Parris’ cousin and niece also fell strangely ill.
Strange illness were often attributed to witchcraft and the accusers who were often family members could not compel with the idea that strange diseases were as a result of a combination of stress, trauma and other physiological causes. These strange diseases mainly attacked children. There was a wide belief that witches often targeted children since they were vulnerable to the witches’ activities  . This made witches to be accused of any strange disease like symptoms as most households ignored the diagnosis of the doctors.
This was fueled by the strange disease that was exhibited by Ann Putnam, Mercy Lewis and Mary Walcott all who were juveniles. The cure to the strange behavior was not understood as the children continued to wriggle on the ground suffering from this strange disease.
The accusers were mainly motivated by the need to curb evil within the Salem community by stopping the witches from killing and depressing people in the society. For instance, women and children were accorded the lowest social class in the Salem community among the Puritans  . This was seen as a counter-development move and was thus fought by the greater farming community as well as the religious Christian society.
When the reverend’s daughter and niece, Elizabeth Parris and Abigail Williams fell ill, they were taken to hospital. Since the doctor could not establish anything physically wrong with the girls, it was concluded that they had been bewitched. Tituba, an Indian witch was accused of bewitching the two girls  . This saw a number of many other witches arrested in 1691with many people condemning witchcraft.
Analysis of the accused
The accused witches were predominantly Puritans. Trouble began when Cloyce and Proctor were arrested. These individuals were members of the covenanted church. After days of interrogation and investigation, more arrests were made and the suspects arraigned in court to be charged with witchcraft. Most of those who had been named went into hiding for fear of being arrested and charged in court.
The prosecutor found the presentation of evidence to be most challenging since evidence in such cases was merely imaginary. The Court of Oyer and Terminer was responsible for prosecuting and charging the witches. The court convened on June 2, 1692 where Bridget Bishop’s case was heard first  . The grand jury indeed acknowledged all the charges made against her. Several other witches who were arrested and totaled 150 were charged before the Court of Oyer and Terminer with witchcraft. Only one accused who refused to enter a plea was crushed to death using stones  . The Court of Oyer and Terminer handled all formal prosecutions of witchcraft. About 36 people were arrested on July 2, 1692 following the convening of the new Governor, Chief Magistrate and Crown’s attorney. Local magistrate presided over the cases where they arrested, examined and charged the witches according to the law.
The accused were often individuals who maintained a high social status within the Salem setting. They were individuals who were revered and feared for their evil powers  . Most of them lived in eastern Salem. The witches of Salem had amassed massive wealth due to witch-hunting. They had been accused at one time of killing innocent people for the benefit of their wealth.
The Salem witch trials were hence as a result of the beliefs that the witches held within the Salem society. The witches were also accused of causing strange diseases among children. Many of the Salem witches were often wealthy people who enjoyed a high social status within the community. Moreover, they were located on the eastern side of the Salem village just next to the farming communities in the Salem town.
The Salem trials led to the arrest and imprisonment of over 150 people, 19 of whom were hanged and one crushed to death. These trials were the most controversial in the history of Salem. The trials were done in such haste in order to clear the large backlog of cases concerning witches in the Court of Oyer and Terminer  .
Concerns about witchcraft were often muffled under the pillow until when Elizabeth Parris became strangely ill. She was the daughter of the Reverend Parris, leader of the religious church. Abigail Williams, a niece to the reverend also fell strangely ill. Tituba, the Indian witch was accused of bewitching the girls. Critics of the trial of Salem suggest that witchcraft should be death with witchcraft instead of convicting of witchcraft and sentenced to death.
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The Puritan Religion and How it Influenced the Salem Witch Trials

Background Information
The Salem Witch Trials of 1692 was an event that lasted a year in which religion fueled mass hysteria in a small colony. The trials consisted of accusations of witchcraft against hundreds of people, and for the unfortunate one’s it would mean their death. These trials and the evidence associated with them was all based around the idea of good which was connected to God versus evil where the connection lied with the Devil. The Puritans were a colony of people from England who were escaping the effects of the Glorious Revolution and found themselves in Salem, Massachusetts. They came to America in hopes of starting a new life under the rule of a new church as they believed the church in England was corrupt. They formed a new religion based off Christian and Catholic ideas and viewed themselves as all-knowing. There was a strong belief that everyone needed to follow their way of life in order to live holy and have a stronger connection to God. The Puritans also based their beliefs around the idea that in order to achieve this desirable pure life one must avoid the Devil’s temptations and wickedness.

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When strange unexplainable events started occurring within their community the Puritans of Salem turned to their religion for an explanation. Women, children, and some men started behaving in a manner that went against their strict beliefs and the only plausible explanation to them was that God had become angry and sent the Devil to punish them. In efforts to repair their relationship with God the Puritans believed that their only chance was to get rid of the Devil’s evil spirits which had seemed to take over. The Devil was believed to have entered the small community and had taken over some of the residents’ souls in the form of a witch. The Puritans were desperate to get back on the path to righteousness that they started the witch trails in order to cleanse the town. They believed what they were doing was morally correct and it was their duty to God to rid of the witches that had possessed their community. 
Religion was the striving force that influenced the Salem Witch Trials. Everything that happened in the town of Salem was connected to the idea that individuals had made some type of deal with the Devil. A majority of the time the trails focused on women as they were viewed inferior to men and envious of them. In the eyes of the law all evidence of witchcraft presented was based on their religious beliefs and not on physical proof.
The Puritan Religion
The Puritan religion started in England as a reformation in efforts of purifying the church. This was based off of the ideas of Martin Luther and John Calvin as the men did not agree with the Roman Catholic church. Martin Luther believed that the teachings of the Bible was the source in which achieving salvation was made possible while John Calvin believed that God had the ultimate source of power. The Puritans that left England and came to America formed the Massachusetts Bay Colony in which they became known as the American Puritans. The main two ideas that came with the reformation was that the Bible was in supreme authority and that individuals had a direct relationship with God and this was not done through an institution or a priest. There were five main beliefs within this religion and this included absolute sovereignty, human depravity, predestination, covenant theology, and individualism. Absolute sovereignty was this idea that God has total control, and that nothing happens without his knowledge. An example of this can be seen when Reverend Samuel Parris delivered a sermon stating, “Our Lord Jesus Christ knows how many Devils there are in his church, and who they are.”[1] When looking into the bigger picture of the Puritan religion of good versus evil, it always comes back to God having power over everyone’s lives.
Human depravity is based off original sin which refers to the story of Adam and Eve. Eve ate the forbidden fruit as she could not resist the serpent’s temptation, Adam would follow her actions as well. This ultimately led them to disobeying God and allowing sin to enter the world. Adam and Eve made humanity evil by default of their actions. The only way to save the integrity of human nature is to serve God and live a pure life. God gives the humans the ability to respond to him and they should be forever grateful for this. Predestination is the ability of God to determine whether humans were to be saved or elected and who was to be damned. The Puritans believed only true followers of God could be elected to go to heaven as God had knowledge of everyone’s truest intentions. Although God decides a person’s faith he does have the power to change different outcomes based off the actions of an individual, this refers to Gods forgiving nature. If a person is lured towards the Devil and commits sin, then that person was never truly a Puritan and therefore should be damned to hell. Sin was unacceptable, and the Puritans tried to live a perfect life. They often believed anything pleasurable that brought happiness was the Devil’s way of trying to lure someone and take over their soul.
Covenant theology comes from the ideas of Calvinism, and it is based on the relationship between God and those who follow him. It includes the importance of social and civil relationships between other followers as well as the organization of the church. The Puritans rejected the church of England because they believed the church should be a self-governing establishment. Their religion differed mostly in the sense that they believe in personal relationships with God and that these relationships should not be met through a priest. Finally, the last aspect of the five main beliefs of the Puritans is individualism which grows off the idea of personal relationships with God. Men and women were allowed to interpret the Bible for themselves in order to grow a stronger relationship. This also allowed individuals the ability to reflect on themselves. Historian Lori Wilson emphasized that
The Puritan doctrine stressed that everything was in God’s hands. Good fortune and heath came to those whom God blessed. Salvation was a gift from God. In worship services, Puritans emphasized Bible reading, prayer, and preaching, and they believed in grace, devotion, prayer, and self-examination to achieve religious virtue. The Puritans also believed that God allowed Satan to tempt and torment those who strayed from the path of righteousness and acted immorally or those whose faith God wanted tested.[2]
There are two enemies believed to be surrounding the people in this religion, one being themselves as they are born with the nature to sin as well as the Devil who goes around in hopes that temptation will lead them away from God. Although people are said to be born with original sin, God forgiving nature dismisses the original sin if the people understand the Devil’s intentions. Gods forgiving nature makes him have an irresistible grace which makes people drawn to him. If the people are willing to dedicate themselves to God, they are deemed as saints which means they can persevere and push past the evilness of the Devil. The Puritans also believed in manifest destiny which was God’s way of saying their religion was the best, and therefore it was the Puritan’s duty to convert others.
The Devil and Witchcraft
 As mentioned before, the Puritan religion revolves around the good nature of God and the wickedness of the Devil. Reverend Deodat Lawson, a minster of Salem, describes the Devil as “both indefatigable and implacable, would use whatever means he could to advance his aims. Satan’s extraordinary powers allowed him to attack people either directly or by imploying some of mankind or other creatures”.[3] Regardless of Gods control, the Devil still had the ability to control people as they were weak to his temptations. The Devil was associated with sin and anything that brought happiness or pleasure was viewed as giving into him. It was their goal to live a pure life free from sin and, “those accused of being witches elicited feelings linked with freedom, diversity, sexuality and hostility, feelings the Puritans were at great pains to suppress”.[4] This stems from the idea that witches were said to sell their souls to Satan and write in his book for the exchange for magic and powers. Lawson states that, “Contracting with witches they shall be the instruments by whom he may secretly affect and afflict the bodies and minds of others”.[5]
The Devil had the ability to take masks himself within a person in the form of a witch. Witchcraft went against all practices within the Puritan’s religion and any individual who was accused of being a witch was subjected to divine punishment which was also known as God’s wrath. Witches were believed to have practiced white and black magic. White magic was based more on telling the future or receiving good luck through different items, and black magic was used with the intentions of harm or murder. White magic seemed to be harmless and was a popular association with teenage boredom although this was still grounds for being considered a witch as magic came from the devil.
Evidence of Witchcraft
 The belief of the Devil and his association with witchcraft is something the Puritans could not prove with physical evidence. It was simply a belief which influenced how they explained the causes of different events as to bring a sense of control into their lives. Additionally, it was a way to show God their true devotion as they were shedding light on the people who went against his teachings and ideas. A lot of evidence came from the behavior of the accused as witches were believed to be “malicious spirits, impatient people, and full of revenge”.[6] A well-known example of the odd behavior exhibited by the accused is the story of Betty Parris who was the daughter of Reverend Samuel Parris and her cousin Abigail Williams who broke out in convulsions and saw frightening visons. In turn, this allowed them to see into the lives of others and make accusations against those who supposedly possessed them with the magic of witchcraft provided by the Devil. Betty’s mother said she would find her daughter “sitting all alone at her needlework, her hands poised but motionless, her eyes staring uncanny fixity at an invisible object. ‘Betty’ the mother would say, and the child would start violently as if caught in an act of guilt, scream sharply, and being pressed for an explanation would give utterance to a meaningless babbling”.[7]
Alongside odd behavior being a major indicator of witchcraft another way of accusing a person would be through visions or dreams as it was believed that God would reveal who these unholy people were. The testimony of Sarah Bibber, Mary Walcott, Johanna Childen, and Susannah Sheldon against Sarah Good is one example of many how seeing an apparition proved one unholy. Sarah Good was one the first women to be accused of witchcraft and this was done so by Abigail Williams and Ann Putman. In Sarah Bibbers testimony she stated, “I saw the apparition of Sarah Good standing by my bedside, and she pulled aside the curtain and turned down the sheet and looked upon my child four years old, and presently, upon it, the child was struck into a great fit that my husband and I could hardly hold”. [8] Mary Walcott stated, “I have also seen the apparition of Sarah Good amongst the witches, who has also afflicted me and urged me to write in her book”. [9] Johanna Childen stated that the apparition of Sarah Good and her child came before her one night and that the child spoke of her mother being a witch. Good then claimed to not have been associated with the devil like her child had stated.[10] Lastly the testimony of Susannah Sheldon states, “I have very often been most grievously tortured by the apparition of Sarah Good, who has most dreadfully afflicted me by biting, pricking, and pinching me, and almost choking me to death”. [11] This eventually led to the community of Salem accusing one another on the basis of hearsay evidence. This included statements from outsiders and confessions, a confession could result from error in stating prayer from the Lord.
The people of Salem who were accused often could not escape the accusations made against them, and this led to people having to face a difficult decision of possible death or admitting to practicing witchcraft. Unfortunately, a majority of the time when a person was accused the church did everything they could in order to receive a confession. This often-included different methods of torture or jail time. For example, Giles Corey was pressed with stones over the span of two days in an attempt to extract a confession. Corey eventually died as he would not admit to the accusations against him.
The church faulted with the way evidence was handled, “the Salem magistrates did not examine the accusers and accused separately, as advised by contemporary legal treaties, but brought them together, allowing for collaboration among the accusers and intimidation of the defendants”.[12] In simplest terms, if a person was accused there was no way of escaping the scrutiny of their fellow puritans and the church. To add onto the fault of the church, “Salem magistrates acted on the witchcraft complaints immediately with no bond of assurance. They issued warrants, held preliminary hearings, forced numerous false confessions, and remanded the accused to jail for trial”. [13] There were many additional ways that the ministers of the church would prove if someone was a witch. For example, Cotton Mather had a list of evidence that would be admissible in the courtroom and this included,
The discovery of the Devil’s mark on the body of the accused which was found by stripping a person naked and examining them. The mark was said to look like a small red circle and was generally found near the genitals. The pin test was used if the Devils mark was found and if it the prick of a pin did not hurt or make the person bleed it was believed the Devil caused it. The touch test was used on the accused based on the belief that the tormenting specter must, upon contact, return to its owner. Thus, if a fit stopped when the accused person touched the afflicted person, that proved the specter of the accused had been indeed the cause of the affliction.[14]
Whenever an accused person went to trial it was not in fairness of he or she as the jury would often times be made up of the accusers. Some historians view the Puritans ministers as abusing their power politically and socially in order to gain more church attendance and funds. It is said that “witchcraft in Massachusetts cannot be understood outside the context of Puritan theology- it was derived from crucial assumptions within Puritan beliefs”. [15] With all the evidence being based on what ministers saw as witchcraft the people of Salem were put into a dilemma as they accepted what was happening in efforts of not going against God.
Gender Bias
Puritan men believed that women were given to them to be good wives and helpers.  Women were viewed as stay at home mothers who cared for the children, cooked, and cleaned while the men were to be out working and providing for their families. Since men had this duty to care for their families, women viewed marriage as the only way to get financial security since they were so limited on what they could do. Women were at the hands of men and were expected do everything they were told. The reasoning behind women being inferior to men stems from the story of Adam and Eve. Eve ate the forbidden fruit after being tempted by the serpent who was the devil and disobeyed god. Due to Eve’s actions all women are viewed as weak and vulnerable to falling into a life of sin. Women were accused of witchcraft a majority of the time due to their susceptibility of weakness. Typically, women over the age of forty or divorced were more likely to be accused of being witches because they did not have a man in their life to take care of them. Often times if a woman inherited land from her family she was accused because it was seen that only men were supposed to have ownership over property. Historian Sandra VanBurkleo states, “the belief in women’s susceptibility to Satan originated not only in physical weakness but also in the sex’s allegedly small talent for reasoning and in the continuing power of Genesis”.[16]  Men did not believe that women had the ability to live a morally correct life and felt that God gave them the power to handle women in any way they felt necessary.

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 It is human nature to follow instincts and do what seems morally correct. Humans are emotional creatures and try their best to make sense of the world around them. Often times religion is a way to cope with the known and unknown aspects the world has to offer. In the case of the Puritans, they truly believed what they were doing was in favor of God. They followed him and his teachings and tried to live a life that would please him. When faced with situations and events that did not make sense to them they turned to their faith and felt as if God was testing them. God was allowing the Devil to walk among them in order to see who would fall to his temptations. The Puritans did what they knew best which was to be true to God and to punish those who went against him. They did not use physical evidence to prove if a person signed the Devil’s book to gain powers, but they relied on their faith. Their faith is what dominated their lives and their actions went hand in hand with events that they tried to explain but did not truly understand. The Salem Witch Trials was an event where the power of religion and its influence on people was strongly correlated and made people act in ways that in which today’s society does not make sense. These trials show that a person cannot be found guilty of a crime against humanity based off words or superstitions because many innocent people died. It goes to show the importance of physical evidence and the importance of trustworthy testimony that is not fueled by bias.

Boyer, Paul S. Salem-village Witchcraft: A Documentary Record of Local Conflict in Colonial New England. Boston: Northeastern Univ. Press, 2001.
Cooke, Kathy J. Generations and Regeneration: ‘Sexceptionalism’ and Group Identity among Puritans in Colonial New England. Journal of the History of Sexuality 23 (2014): 333–57. doi:10.7560/JHS23301.
Marvel, Laura. The Salem Witch Trials. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2003.
Mixon, Franklin G. Homo Economicus and the Salem Witch Trials. The Journal of Economic Education 31, no. 2 (2000): 179-84. doi:10.2307/1183189.
Norton, Mary Beth. In the Devils Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692. New York: Vintage, 2003.
Ray, Benjamin C. The Salem Witch Mania: Recent Scholarship and American History Textbooks. Journal of the American Academy of Religion 78, no. 1 (2010): 40-64.
Semmelhack, Diana, and Larry Ende. The Psychotic Element in Everyday Group Thinking: Reflections on the Salem Witch Trials. Radical Psychology: A Journal of Psychology, Politics & Radicalism 7 (2008): 6.,cpid&custid=s1088435&db=a9h&AN=35894144&site=ehost-live.
Starkey, Marion Lena. The Devil in Massachusetts. Anchor Books, 1969.
Wilson, Lori Lee. The Salem Witch Trials. Minneapolis: Lerner Pub, 1998.
VanBurkleo, Sandra F. Delusions of Gender. Women’s Review of Books 15 (1998): 10.,cpid&custid=s1088435&db=a9h&AN=562984&site=ehost-live.

Similarities Between the Salem Witch Hunt and McCarthyism and Their Influence on The Crucible

Section I – Introduction:
It is apparent that numerous parallels are drawn between Arthur Miller’s, The Crucible, and McCarthyism. Both the publishing of the play by as well as the events of the Red Scare took place in the mid-20th century, specifically the 1950s. They were extremely influential events that shaped the future. It is somewhat ingenious that Miller was successfully able to tie the events of the Salem Witch Trials of the 17th century to the political climate of the 1950s revolving around Joseph McCarthy. In the play, Reverend Parris finds his niece, Abigail, and his beloved daughter, Betty, dancing in the woods with a servant named Tituba. Betty Parris faints upon her dad’s findings and eventually becomes very ill. It is believed that the illness is correlated with the prevalence of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts. A trial comprised of wrongful convictions, death, and name slandering proceeds, with the central figure being Abigail and those associated with her. Arthur Miller’s, The Crucible, is an allegory of the Red Scare that impacted society mentally, physically, and spiritually.
Section II – Biographical:
 Arthur Miller was inspired to connect the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 with the political events of his time and draw similarities in 1953 in The Crucible. It is evident that the play serves as a social commentary of the events that transpired in the mid-20th century. There was a large sense of clashing ideologies and communism craze; the United States was attempting to mitigate the communist culture that was present at the time due to the fact that it was deemed unrighteous, extreme, and polarizing (PBS, 2003). Miller was personally affected by the McCarthyism drama. During the time, a close friend of his named Elia Kazan, a popular director, was called upon to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (PBS, 2003). This specific committee was founded for the purpose of investigating alleged communists present in America at the time of the McCarthyism Era (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2016). The various processes involved in convicting individuals presented before the organization were challenged and thought to violate the First Amendment rights of free speech (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2016). The Committee disbanded in 1975 after being bombarded with pressure regarding its immoral convictions and judgements of the innocent people whose lives were being unjustly ruined (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2016). The wrongful conviction of Elia Kazan in addition to many other famous playwrights and actors known by Miller further inclined him to produce The Crucible in 1953 to bring light and clarity to the situation for the public. Everyone in America was on the edge of their seats as a result of the rising tensions present at the time. Wrongful convictions were speedily handed out to hundreds of people in power, but the reversal process to de-escalate the situation was much more time-consuming (University of Pennsylvania, 2000).

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In regard to incorporating the 1692 Salem witch hunt into his play, Miller was motivated to do so after encountering The Devil in Massachusetts written by Marion Starkey. This book highlighted the noteworthy occurrences of the hunt itself. Miller noticed the similarities between the proceedings of the Red Scare and the Salem witch hunt and was astonished by the obsession of envisioning unfair allegations leading to large-scale investigations (University of Pennsylvania, 2000). People were forced to conform to the allegations due to the fact that the powerful and rich authority figures had pending consequences for those who opposed and spoke the truth. Miller believed his role as an esteemed writer gave him a sense of obligation to report and scrutinize the modern events he witnessed first-hand in “dark” America. He decided to integrate the Red Scare as an allegory in his ground-breaking play, The Crucible.
Section III – McCarthyism:
 During the 1940s and 1950s, Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy destroyed the lives and careers of numerous political figures and citizens in the United States by incorrectly affiliating them with communism. This resulted in a multitude of investigations aimed at those who were erroneously believed to act as spies and have ties with communist governments such as Russia (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2018). The allegations that surfaced after being spewed by McCarthy led to his significance, resulting in participation and acknowledgement by various high-ranking government groups. He spent much of his time after 1950 taking part in the ongoing investigations and attempting to find new leads to convict more people in government. Despite being unable to confirm his accusations towards any of the hundreds of individuals under scrutiny, consequences still took place for these people. Livelihoods and reputations were maimed for those who were condemned (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2018).
 The McCarthy hearings were pivotal in the declination of the Wisconsin senator. The trials took place in 1954 and prolonged for 36 days. Unexpectedly and ironically, McCarthy was figuratively put to trial after a rebuttal by lawyer Joseph Welch, which states as follows: “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?” (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2018). This sparked the downfall of McCarthy as well as his allegations and shifted the battle in favor of the public. His collapse truly spiraled after McCarthy was heavily criticized by the likes of Edward R. Murrow, an influential American journalist and war correspondent (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2018). McCarthy passed away shortly as an alcoholic after being punished for his false indictments in 1957. The notorious legacy of McCarthy is the coined term “McCarthyism”, which is often used in modern political language to describe defamation of character by extensive unruly claims (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2018). Miller unearthed the resemblance between the Red Scare and the Salem witch hunt.
 The Salem witch trials of 1692 are known to be unjust and immoral for wrongfully accusing innocent individuals of performing witchcraft. In the spring of the specified year, a few young girls claimed to be possessed by the devil as a result of being exposed to witchcraft. They continued to blame a group of women for playing a role in their newly developed “hysteria”, for which the nineteen women were taken to trial and ultimately hung (HISTORY, 2018). Additionally, hundreds of men, women, fathers, mothers, and children were continually falsely accused of witchcraft in several counties within Salem. The trial fueled a sense of suspicion and hatred towards fellow neighbors and friends, inevitably tearing the communities of the town apart (HISTORY, 2018). Surprisingly, the events that turned the community and sparked this nuance of dislike was the same thing that brought the public back together. The injustice experienced by innocent citizens at the hands of authority and a handful of delusional miscreants did not go unnoticed, and this led to the end of the Salem witch trials in Fall of 1692. Reparations were paid to the incorrectly suspected defendants and families who lost loved ones, however; the painful aura brought to Salem by the witch trials thrived until after Miller’s The Crucible was written (HISTORY, 2018). After discussing both McCarthyism and the Salem witch trials, it is obvious there is a connection to be made and a discourse to be had regarding the many similarities.
 The overlying similarity between both historical events is the illegitimate condemnations of citizens within similar communities. McCarthy plays the role of Abigail in instigating the false allegations and an eventual trial. This is seen when Abigail convicts and relentlessly blames Tituba of forcefully performing witchcraft on her: “She comes to me every night to go and drink blood…She comes to me while I sleep; she’s always making me dream corruptions!” (Miller 44; Act 1). This is a significant foundational argument that sets the course of the play. The consequences presented to those who were accused by McCarthy were not as dire as those originally suspected by the Salem witch trials. There were no deaths or hangings in the 1950 political disagreements regarding communism, however; it is very important to consider factors such as the dates the events took place and external climates of the country at the time. The shift in blame from the community to those who prompted the fictitious statements (Abigail and McCarthy) through the course of the trial is a resemblance often overlooked when comparing both incidents. These are the major connections established between the processes and transpired events of McCarthyism and the Salem witch trials.
Section IV – Puritanism and Communism:
 Miller’s social commentary on the witch hunt outlined a time when innocent people within a moderately sized community were oppressed by the government through fear and deception. This, however; is not the first instance of such widespread distress caused by authority. Inside the same community discussed in The Crucible, the ideologies of Puritanism prevailed. The Puritans were obsessed with always doing the right thing and serving God. The sensation of being self-righteous and not committing any sinful deeds was always chased by those who followed this ideology. The prevalence of Puritanism was a major contributing factor in the trials of witchcraft (Smithsonian, 2011). The irony of the matter is entailed in the fact that the Puritans themselves simply assumed what was right and wrong and just and unjust. Witchcraft was always classified as a deceitful act of the soul for the reason that communication with the devil was thought to be established. Due to this, witches were branded as impure and wicked, leading to a hunt focused on killing whomever was allegedly recognized to partake in this group (Smithsonian, 2011). There is evidence of the importance of purity within the Salem community in the play when Reverend Parris accosts Abigail in the midst of the witchcraft accusations; “Abigail, I have sought here three long years to bend these stiff-necked people to me, and now, just now when some good respect is rising for me in the parish, you compromise my very character…Your name in the town – it is en-tirely white, is it not?” (Miller 12, Act 1). Here it can be seen that reputation and name play a large role during this time in Salem. Miller successfully illustrates that there is no accusation more dehumanizing than one that strips an individual’s purity.
In congruence, communism in the mid-20th century was an overarching ideology in many regions of the world. Ideological wars took place between powerful countries, and residents of these countries who did not conform to the ideas were punished by the governments. This is the premise of McCarthyism, as those who were thought to be communists were relegated from their positions and chastised on the grounds that they were believed to be spies. The suffering encountered by those who were framed as guilty for both the witch trials and communist ideologies spread fear and hysteria throughout the respective regions of prevalence.
Section V – Story Analysis:
 The witchcraft trials of the late 17th century are utilized in The Crucible to serve as an allegory for the Red Scare that emerged in the 20th century. As stated above, the environments in which witchcraft and communism existed did not tolerate the propagation of such ideologies. Puritans condemned witchcraft the same way the American government and political heads such as Senator Joseph McCarthy condemned communism. The constant pointing of fingers towards innocent individuals was seemingly an act of desperation for those who were essentially fueled by hate. Punishments for both groups were severe to the point where lives were lost. The influence of Abigail in the witch trials and McCarthy in America ultimately led to blind destruction of livelihood by the communities in which these actions prevailed. It is most shocking, yet troubling, that honest people were being punished even though there was a lack of presented evidence.
The downfall of both McCarthy and Abigail draws parallels as well for the reason that the societies they hunted and casted a spell on turned on them when seemingly righteous people were indicted. McCarthy was first challenged when he implicated the United States Army’s Chief Attorney, Joseph Welch (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2018). In Abigail’s case, her validity was questioned when she arraigned John Proctor and Rebecca Nurse, two very respected community members. It was unimaginable to citizens of the community that morally inclined people with pure souls such as these two would partake in witchcraft. As stated in the play by Reverend Hale when speaking to Mr. Nurse, “if Rebecca Nurse be tainted, then nothing’s left to stop the whole green world from burning. Let you rest upon the justice of the court; the court will send her home, I know it” (Miller 71; Act 2). This further exemplifies the sheer disbelief of the community members that someone such as Mrs. Nurse performs witchcraft.
Additionally, the growing feelings of panic and frenzy overshadowed Salem and the United States during the witch hunt and the rise of McCarthy, respectively. Suspicion was evident, and citizens were extra cautious regarding their actions and demeanor to ensure they were not wrongfully indicted for being an enemy of their community. It was not uncommon for neighbors to purposefully accuse each other in order to save themselves from conviction. After researching McCarthyism and reading The Crucible, it is clear that a competitive and selfish attitude was rewarded as opposed to a collaborative environment in both the 17th century and the mid-20th century. This outlook persisted for many years to come after the production of Miller’s famed play.
Section VI – Conclusion:
 Arthur Miller showed how the government can impact society mentally, physically, and spiritually, by spreading hysteria, and threatening their livelihood. A greater sense of appreciation for The Crucible is established after connecting the Salem witch trials with the Red Scare. Light was shed on the similarities between the two significant events that played a pivotal role in shaping the future. Further insight about Miller’s life and influence for his esteemed production is gained through the convictions of other brilliant playwrights and actors of his time, including Elia Kazan. The groupthink and group polarization exhibited by the societies of Salem and America during the height of these two events is eye opening and somewhat disturbing to modern readers. All in all, the witch hunt and communist hunt constituted darker times in American history, however; there is much to be learned about clashing ideologies and the importance of societal acceptance in successive years to come. This is a sentiment gained by readers through Arthur Miller’s work, and one that will hopefully never be lost in the future.
Works Cited:

CPCW: The Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing,, A&E Television Networks,
“A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials.”, Smithsonian Institution, 23 Oct. 2007,
Achter, Paul J. “McCarthyism.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 25 Oct. 2018,
“Arthur Miller, Elia Kazan and the Blacklist: None Without Sin.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 30 Nov. 2015,
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “House Un-American Activities Committee.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 22 July 2016,
Miller, Arthur. The Crucible: A Play in Four Acts. Penguin Books, 2016.