The play The Crucible
is itself a symbol. Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible
in the early 1950s, when intense American fears of Communism allowed Joseph McCarthy, a United States Senator from Wisconsin, to rise to national power through his Congressional investigations (called "witch-hunts" by McCarthy's opponents) of Communists in America. As in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, McCarthy and his followers created a hysterical fear among the population, and silence was considered an indication of guilt. Just as many non-witches confessed to committing witchcraft, many non-Communists confessed to being Communists and falsely named others as Communists in order to evade punishment. The entire play The Crucible
can therefore be seen as a symbol of the hysterical anti-Communism of the early 1950s, though it should not be seen as only
a symbol. The themes it defines and explores are timeless and applicable beyond the time and place in which they were written or set.