Why did Arthur Miller write The Crucible? Why did he draw the connection between the Salem witch-hunt of 1692 and McCarthyism, which swept America in the 1950s? Well to answer these questions, it is important to understand the social and cultural aspects of history that helped shape and influence the writing of this play. There are two very distinct contexts that influenced Arthur Miller as he wrote The Crucible. The first context relates to the 17th century repressive and socially constrictive Puritan society of Salem. The second context is concerned with the anti-communist crusade, which gripped America in the 1950s, also known as McCarthyism. Even though the Crucible was based upon the witchcraft hysteria of Salem, Arthur Miller aimed his play towards the anti-communist hysteria of McCarthyism to draw a parallel between these two separate historical contexts of time.
The first context, which influenced the writing of The Crucible, was one of the strangest and most awful chapters in human history. This of course was the witchcraft hysteria that embraced the small town of Salem in 1692. The village of Salem was run by very strict rules and obligations by where each member of the society was required to keep a pure and holy relationship with God. Anyone who would choose not to obey these religious ethics would be exiled, affronted, or tortured to death. The Puritanical society was structured and based on the idea of Theocracy, where God was recognized as the supreme ruler of the people. It was a system of government by which the church claimed divine power over the society.
The second context, which informed the writing of the play, was indeed the anti-Communist hysteria, which took place in the United States several centuries after the Salem witch hunts. A man by the name of Joseph McCarthy entered history in 1947 when he claimed to know the names of communists secretly operating in the State Department.