Arthur Miller The Crucible
About the Author
Like most classics, The Crucible works on several levels. First and foremost, it is an dramatic exploration of historical events. Arthur Miller researched the incidents and lives surrounding the Salem Witch Trial. Although the dialogue has been fabricated, many of the lines were inspired from the actual court documents from 1692.
American society learned a difficult lesson from the Salem trials. Miller contends that we learned the dangers of theocracy. Freedom cannot be attained if religious leaders control the fate of the people.
Of course, when one recalls the year in which The Crucible was written, it’s easy to make a connection between the witch trials of 1692 and the “witch hunt” for communists during the early 1950s. Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) targeted directors, writers, and movie stars who were reputed to be members of the communist party.
Like Rev. Parris and Judge Danforth, McCarthy accused potential deviants, prompted by rumors rather than logical evidence. In Salem, the judges coerced witnesses into implicating others, similar to the technique used in the 1950s, as Arthur Miller The Crucible.
The theme becomes all the more relevant when one considers the playwright’s life, before and after The Crucible. During the mid-1930s, Miller and other artists attended a small group that discussed the philosophy of communism. Director Elia Kazan was also a member of this group. Miller contends that most of the idealistic group members soon realized that Stalin’s Soviet Union was a very flawed system of government.
Still, because of his affiliation with this group, Elia Kazan was called before the House of Un-American Activities Committee. He gave a list of eight names, implicating fellow members of the original group. Playwrights Lillian Hellman and Arthur Miller were among the names given. Aside from the feeling of betrayal, Miller also wondered about the devious roots of Joseph McCarthy’s “Red Scare.” He began to research the Salem Witch Trials and, using the sense of paranoia he witnessed around him, began to write “The Crucible.”
After the play opened in 1953, the HUAC paid close attention to Miller. Following his marriage to Marilyn Monroe in 1956, he became a highly visible media figure, which made him a prime target in the eyes of the HUAC. They summoned him before the committee. They wanted to know the names of friends and co-workers. Miller refused to offer any names. He was subsequently blacklisted. In addition, in 1958 he was found in contempt of court and sentenced to thirty days in prison. Fortunately, months later a court of appeals overturned the conviction. Soon after, McCarthyism lost its momentum.
Death of a Salesman
Over the course of seven decades, Arthur Miller created some of the most memorable stage plays in American Literature. He is the author of Death of a Salesman and The Crucible. Born and raised in Manhattan, Miller witnessed the best and the worst of American society. His father was a productive shop-keeper and clothing manufacturer until the Great Depression dried up virtually all business opportunities, Arthur Miller The Crucible.
Yet, despite being faced with poverty, Miller made the best of his childhood. He was a very active young man, in love with such sports as football and baseball. When he wasn’t playing outside, he enjoyed reading adventure stories. He was also kept busy by his many boyhood jobs. He often worked along side his father. During other times in his life, he delivered bakery goods and worked as a clerk in an auto parts warehouse.
University of Michigan
In 1934, Miller left the east coast to attend the University of Michigan. He was accepted into their school of journalism. His experiences during the depression made him skeptical towards religion. Politically, he began leaning towards the “Left.” And since the theater was the cutting edge way for socio-economic liberals to express their views, he decided to enter the Hopwood Drama competition. His first play, No Villain, received an award from the University. It was an impressive beginning for the young playwright; he had never studied plays or playwriting, and he had written his script in just five days!
After graduation, he continued writing plays and radio dramas. During World War II, his writing career gradually became more successful. (He did not enter the military due to an old football injury). In 1940 he crafted The Man Who Had All the Luck. It arrived on Broadway in 1944, but unfortunately it departed from Broadway four days later! In 1947, his first Broadway success, a powerful drama titled All My Sons, earned him critical and popular acclaim. From that point on, his work was in high demand. Death of a Salesman, his most famous work, debuted in 1949. It earned him international recognition.
During the 1950s, Arthur Miller became the most recognized playwright in the world. His renown wasn’t simply because of his literary genius. In 1956 he married his second wife, Marilyn Monroe. From then on, he was in the limelight. Photographers hounded the famous couple at all hours. The tabloids were often cruel, puzzling over why the “world’s most beautiful woman” would marry such a “homely writer.” A year after divorcing Marilyn Monroe in 1961 (a year before her death), Miller married his third wife, Inge Morath. They remained together until she passed away in 2002. He is Arthur Miller The Crucible.
Since Miller was in the spotlight, he was a prime target for the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). In an age of anti-communism and McCarthyism, Miller’s political beliefs seemed threatening to some American politicians. In retrospect, this is quite amusing, considering the Soviet Union banned his plays. In response to the hysteria of the time, he wrote one of his best plays, The Crucible. It is an insightful criticism of social and political paranoia set during the Salem Witch Trials. Miller was summoned before the HUAC. He was expected to release names of any associate he knew to be a communist.
Finishing the Picture
Before he sat before the committee, a congressman requested a signed Marilyn Monroe photograph, saying that the hearing would be dropped. Miller refused, just as he refused to give up any names. He stated, “I don’t believe a man has to become an informer in order to practice his profession freely in the United States.” Unlike director Elia Kazan and other artists, Miller did not submit to the demands of the HUAC. He was charged with contempt of Congress, but the conviction was overturned.
Even into his late 80s, Miller continued to write. His newer stage plays did not gain the same amount of attention or acclaim as his earlier work. However, film adaptations of The Crucible and Death of a Salesman kept his fame very much alive. In 1987, his autobiography was published. Much of his later plays dealt with personal experience. In particular, his final drama, Finishing the Picture mirrors the turbulent last days of his marriage to Marilyn Monroe. In 2005, Arthur Miller passed away at the age of 89.