Arthur Miller's The Crucible depicts the events of the Salem Witch Trials. Miller wrote the play in the 1950's during McCarthyism, while politician Joseph McCarthy sought to find hidden communists in the United States government. He falsely accused numerous Americans of being Communist spies and ruined their reputations in the process. Although Miller set the play in the late 1600's, he wrote it to address these current issues facing the country. He illustrates the detrimental effects on a community when people are wrongly accused. He also shows that the accusers are often those that can gain something by ruining others reputations. In The Crucible, Miller illustrates through the Salem Witch Trials the mass paranoia and hysteria that occurs when people blindly accuse others of misdeeds.
In The Crucible, the main accusers were those that wished to raise their power or social standing in society. Thomas Putman became a leader in the search for witches as a way to acquire more property. Once he accused someone and they were sent to prison, he quickly took over their land. Abigail accused people as a way to gain power and hide from her own sins. Miller shows that witch hunt was "a long overdue opportunity for everyone so inclined to express publicly his guilt and sins, under the cover of accusations against the victims" (7). Abigail accused others so she would not be reprimanded for her own wrongdoings. She had an affair with John Proctor and often laughed during prayers, which was highly looked down upon. Abigail decides to accuse Elizabeth Proctor of witchery so she can continue her affair with John. Abigail also wanted to alter her reputation. Miller demonstrates how people accuse others of witch craft in order to gain something in return. .
In the play, Miller depicts how the accusations can quickly spiral out of control and lead to mass hysteria. He shows how people simply accuse others to take the blame off themselves.