Arthur Miller's The Crucible explores the Salem witch trials in great detail. However, there is more to the play than witch trials. The Crucible was written at a time when a similar hysteria was sweeping through America. Indeed, it was such a troubling time that the American people, forced by their fear of communism and Soviet expansion and espioge, that they were willing to believe the seemingly outrageous charges of Senator Joe McCarthy. In Arthur Miller's The Crucible, there are plenty of parallels between Salem 1692 and America during the early 1950's when the spread of McCarthyism was at its height.
During the 1950's the original suspects charged with communist affiliation were often in the lower or less respected ranks of society. At first anyone from debtors, low level actors and artists to homosexuals were charged with affiliation with the Communist Party. Eventually the accusations worked its way up to more prominent levels of society; eventually even Miller himself was called to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1956, three years after writing The Crucible. In his play a similar pattern is followed. At first the girls start accusing people of the lower class of witchery. Tituba, the slave from Barbados who obviously was of the lowest class in Salem, was the first to be accused of witchcraft. Sarah Good, a homeless woman, and Sarah Osburne, a drunkard were among the next to be accused. The good people of Salem, just like the American people in the 1950's, were so scared of something that it clouded their better judgment. Further, the warnings of clear thinking people like John Proctor were not heeded. When Proctor warns that "little crazy children are jangling the keys to the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law!" it is reminiscent of the warnings of those who spoke out against McCarthyism in its early stages, such as Miller himself.
Another similarity between McCarthyism and The Crucible is that those who were accused had no means of defending themselves.