The Red Scare And The Crucible

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After World War II drew to a conclusion, the long Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union began. In the 1950s, tensions ran high between America and its one-time ally, and fear of the Communists was widespread. Joseph McCarthy, a little known senator from Wisconsin, exploited the fears of the masses in an attempt to gain popularity and a good reputation. He declared that not only did Americans face the Communist threat overseas. McCarthy spearheaded an effort to rid the country of Communism in a mass movement called the Red Scare. During the Scare, thousands of innocent citizens were accused of holding Communist sympathies, accusations which had little or no evidence to support them. Arthur Miller, appalled by the wide approval with which McCarthy’s actions were received, set about trying to convince the public of the spuriousness of the charges and attempted to reveal the greed and fear which motivated them. Realizing that any overt criticism would be rationalized by the public, he sought to describe another more removed event that would serve as a parallel to the Red Scare. Due to the striking similarities between the two events, Miller chose the Salem witch trials to represent the Red Scare in his play The Crucible. The impetus behind both the Red Scare and the Salem trials came from the innate emotionality of the subjects with which they dealt. When the Red Scare occurred, Americans had lost the comfort, however the illusion of the isolationist policy predating the First World War. The United States was suddenly thrust neck-deep into world affairs and immediately entangled in a cold war with the Soviet Union. Americans feared the great power across the ocean, and the thought that spies might be present among them in their own towns and cities struck a common chord. Fear rather than reason fueled the Red Scare, which generated extreme reactions
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