1952 was the height of the Second Red Scare led by Senator Joseph McCarthy. This period was characterised by intense communist hysteria and fear. Men and women lived in fear of merely being labelled a communist. In those times this was the greatest damage to personal reputation one could experience. People therefore took great care to avoid close contact with those accused of communism lest they be found guilty by association. Prevalent in those times was the habit of accused people trying to exonerate themselves by professing their patriotism and then naming others who were yet to be accused of being communists.
“In the Crucible” by Arthur Miller the period is best captured in the Act 1 when Rev John Hale fancies himself as a witchcraft hunter questions Abigail whether she and the other girls are engaged in the practice of witchcraft. Abigail denies it and goes on to make unsubstantiated claim that Tituba is the one involved in witchcraft. Accusation on witchcraft in Salem had serious repercussions as one could be beaten and hang. Tituba who is aware of this fact proclaims herself faithful to God and Goody Good and Goody Osborne as witches (Morgan, 2004). More so, Betty who had been lying on the bed all along also gets up and claims to have been bewitched without giving any proof. Betty and Abigail list names of people she claims were in the devil’s camp.
This Act wholly reflects the atmosphere people lived in 1952 during the peak of McCarthyism when accused people tried desperately to save their reputations by labelling others communists without substantiating their claims. This shows how the book relies on claims and not facts.
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