Reputation himself. Arthur Miller employs an allegory depicting

Reputation is a fragile beast hinged on perceived notions and
impressions. Your reputation has a life of its own in the community based on
what is heard of you or has been judged from your prior actions. It is fragile
and calls for utmost care. People go through great lengths to protect it. Arthur
Miller who was condemned and disrespected by the United States Congress wrote a
play, The Crucible, to draw attention to the Red Scare propaganda that
ruined the reputations of many including himself. Arthur Miller employs an
allegory depicting McCarthyism in The Crucible to help him articulate
the importance of preserving one’s reputation in order to belong in society
through the use of characters, setting, and events.

Arthur Miller portrays characters who have dark desires, hidden
agendas, and moral contradictions, but mask them to desperately preserve their
good name and to maintain a good standing in the town. They go through great
lengths to avoid being falsely accused and condemned like those who faced
disapprovals and tragedies during the McCarthyism propaganda.

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Reverend Parris is a character in The Crucible who puts in
a great deal of effort to maintain an honorable repute. Although he is not the
most well liked person, Reverend Parris is a recognized church leader and is
well respected for being a faithful Christian and does not want to be
associated with the devil. “There is a faction that is sworn to drive me from
my pulpit. Do you understand that?… Now then, in the midst of such
disruption, my own household is discovered to be the very center of some
obscene practice. Abominations are done in the forest” (Miller 25). This quote
shows how Reverend Parris is very fearful regarding the rumors that his
daughter’s sickness is induced by witchcraft. Reverend Parris does not want the
embarrassment of associating the devil with his family, and thereby affecting
his position as the town’s spiritual leader. He is worried that a rival group
in the town might push him out of his position due to his daughter’s
affiliation to witchcraft. “I’ll lead them in a psalm, but let you say nothing
of witchcraft yet. I will not discuss it. The cause is yet unknown. I have had
enough contention since I came; I want no more” (Miller 29). This excerpt shows
how Reverend Parris is trying to steer the debate away from the devil. It seems
as if he is far less concerned with finding the real issue that is afflicting
his daughter than to desperately camouflage his predicament. He is trying to devise
a plan to suppress the evil rumors about his daughter’s coma to avoid
jeopardizing his position in the Church. He wants to depict to the rest of the
town, that he still has control over his house and that he maintains high moral
values as a Christian. This will allow him to safeguard his reputation, and in
turn allow him to continue as the town’s church leader. Just like the people
who feared about association with communism and “being put on trial for
atrocities during the McCarthyism period” (“What was the red scare?”), Reverend
Parris has fears for association to the devil and the repercussions in the form
of the witch trials.

Judge Danforth is another example of a character in The Crucible
who is characterized as an open-minded judge who prides in fair judgements, but
would not revisit any mistakes from the past. “Look at me! To your own
knowledge, has John Proctor ever committed the crime of lechery? In a crisis of
indecision she cannot speak. Answer my question! Is your husband a lecher…

She spoke nothing of lechery, and this man has lied!” (Miller 88). This quote
shows how Judge Danforth went out of his way to discredit John Proctor’s claims that Abigail was a fraud. If John
Proctor’s allegations had been right, then Judge Danforth would have been
exposed to all the prior manipulations by Abigail, a meager teenager who had tricked
him with her acting. If he were to lose this reputation, he believed that he
would be questioned on every decision going forward, and would eventually lose
his job. On top of this, he thought that going back on his word now would cause
him to lose credibility. He feared being blamed for the loss of all those
innocent lives based on the testimonies of Abigail and to be looked down upon
for being fooled by a teenage girl. These consequences would influence his
societal reputation. He believes that this will do irreparable damage to his
reputation and his ability to lead the court. Danforth desires to preserve his
reputation and won’t allow the validity of his decisions to be questioned.

Arthur Miller perhaps used this character to depict “Joseph McCarthy who put certain
Army officers, leaders and citizens on trial without having evidence to back up
his claim” (“Joseph McCarthy”).

Arthur Miller uses the setting of Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 to
illustrate that in order to be a part of society in that era, you need to
preserve your reputation. This setting paints the perfect atmosphere for a
rigid and socially unacceptable society like the McCarthyism period with
conflicting beliefs.

Salem was a puritan town based on a theocratic government, and its
people believed that god could see right through one’s actions and see their
actual intentions. “And yet, Mister, a Christian on Sabbath Day must be in
church. (pause) Tell me—you have three children?” (Miller 59). This quote helps
explain the expectations of the Puritan people. They had to be considered good Christians
first. People in the town were worried about their Christian reputations. This
reputation was based on if they went to church every Sunday, if they believed
in god, and if they didn’t work on Sunday. If they went against any one of
these rules, they were automatically considered not Christian and were labelled
as a witch and an ally of the devil. All their judicial laws were based on the
Bible. This fact altered how people had to carefully portray their reputation
to the townspeople. This is identical to the McCarthyism era when people had to
be “discreet about their beliefs in fear of being interpreted as bordering on
communist ideologies” (“None without Sin McCarthyism”).

Puritan societies had a black and white perspective on the world.

Either you were good or you were evil. There was no middle ground. Arthur
Miller used this fact for symbolism and to explain how one would be viewed in a
society like this. “At any rate, very few Indians were converted, and the Salem
folk believed that the virgin forest was the Devil’s last preserve, his home
base and the citadel of his final stand. To the best of their knowledge the
American forest was the last place on earth that was not paying homage to God”
(Miller 22). This quote shows how puritans in Salem viewed the world in two
distinct categories: good vs evil. It also shows how the forest was viewed in
the realm of evil and that anyone who was associated with it, was against the
puritan values. Arthur Miller exploits this feature of the puritan society to
portray how dancing in the woods damaged the girls’ reputations. When the girls
were caught in the forest, the symbol of evil forest caused people in the town
to second guess their intentions, and not trust them. People did not want to be
associated with those that were on the evil side. In the Crucible, the evil forest represents Communism while the
Puritan town represents American Democracy where they did not want the evil
communism to infiltrate their pure society.

Arthur Miller embeds specific events and twists in the plot to
demonstrate actions and decisions taken to preserve reputation. There are
trials and judgements to favor the popular beliefs much like the tragedies and
sentences that befell people during the McCarthyism trials.

The events from John Proctor’s attempt to expose Abigail in Act
III led to his decision to die rather than confess at the end of Act IV.

“Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie
and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them
that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me
my name!” (Miller 105). This excerpt shows how much more John Proctor valued
his reputation over his own life. It explains that he is ready to accept death
by telling the truth rather than signing collusion with the devil which he
considered as a deeper sin that would tarnish his reputation for his legacy.

This strikes a similarity with “Arthur Miller as he also chose during the Red
Scare to not provide government misinformation about his meetings” (“Arthur
Miller Biography”) in order to save his reputation.

The event from Act 3 relates to Reverend Parris who provides his
feedback to the judge in favor of Abigail in support of the popular Witch
trials. “Excellency, you surely cannot think to let so vile a lie be spread in
open court!” (Miller 72). This excerpt refers to the plot where Reverend Parris
is requesting the court to stop the spread of lies by Mary Warren while calling
for acceptance of Abigail’s accusations to incarcerate and convict even
important, influential citizens. This is his attempt to protect his reputation
in support of the witch trials which is a popular Christian belief.  He
does not want to do anything to jeopardize his good name by going against the Christian
spirit. It is similar to the Red Scare phenomenon of believing in the
perpetration of communism on American believes during the era of McCarthyism.

Arthur Miller uses an allegory in his play, The Crucible,
to show the similarities between the Salem witch trials and the Red Scare. The
characters, setting, and events of The Crucible
helped convey the fact about how important reputations are in any society. This
important life lesson can also be applicable today as well as in the future.

You should always be aware of your actions and the effect it has on your
perception in the world based on the popular beliefs.

 

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