Why did Arthur Miller write The Crucible? At the height of his career, Arthur Miller departed from his more usual fare of modern-day familial strife to write a dramatic play about the Salem witch trials of 1692. While a riveting story in its own right, Miller had inspiration from an event that took place in his own life. The play was written as a societal and political statement for a 1950s audience.
While several factors contributed to the anti-Communist movement that peaked in the 1950s, by the time Miller wrote The Crucible, the US was experiencing heightened fears about the possibility of Communist Americans and Communist sympathizers within the film and entertainment industry. Led by US Senator Joseph McCarthy, wild and sweeping accusations were made against certain suspicious people. These people were brought before a Congressional investigative panel and questioned. The result of testifying or refusing to give names of known Communists meant a loss of employment, significant career problems, jail time and public scrutiny.
Because of his liberal views and atheist beliefs, Miller was quickly targeted as a possible Communist and was forced to testify in 1956 in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Miller appeared at the hearing with future wife Marilyn Monroe and answered questions about his political activities, but refused to name friends or colleagues who might have Communist ties. This experience, plus seeing many associates suffer persecution on the famous Hollywood blacklist, inspired Miller to make a political statement using the long-ago witch trials.
In some of his later writings, Miller stated that as he witnessed the growing hysteria of the late 1940s and 1950s concerning Communist fears, he was drawn to the stories of similar irrational fears and judgments of the 1692 witch trials. He drew parallels between each era's paranoia and hysteria, and even offered up sacrificial victims who were innocent but not given the chance to prove so fairly. Miller hoped The Crucible would shed light on the absurd nature of targeting entertainers, academics and scientists with unsubstantiated claims of Communist activities.