The McCarthy era's anti-communist trials destroyed lives and friendships. Arthur Miller describes the paranoia that swept America - and the moment his then wife Marilyn Monroe became a bargaining chip in his own prosecution Saturday June 17, It would probably never have occurred to me to write a play about the Salem witch trials of had I not seen some astonishing correspondences with that calamity in the America of the late 40s and early 50s.
Arthur Miller describes the paranoia that swept America - and the moment his then wife Marilyn Monroe became a bargaining chip in his own prosecution Saturday June 17, It would probably never have occurred to me to write a play about the Salem witch trials of had I not seen some astonishing correspondences with that calamity in the America of the late 40s and early 50s.
My basic need was to respond to a phenomenon which, with only small exaggeration, one could say paralysed a whole generation and in a short time dried up the habits of trust and toleration in public discourse.
I refer to the anti-communist rage that threatened to reach hysterical proportions and sometimes did. I suppose we rapidly passed over anything like a discussion or debate, and into something quite different, a hunt not just for subversive people, but for ideas and even a suspect language.
The object was to destroy the least credibility of any and all ideas associated with socialism and communism, whose proponents were assumed to be either knowing or unwitting agents of Soviet subversion. An ideological war is like guerrilla war, since the enemy is an idea whose proponents are not in uniform but are disguised as ordinary citizens, a situation that can scare a lot of people to death.
To call the atmosphere paranoid is not to say that there was nothing real in the American-Soviet stand-off. But if there was one element that lent the conflict a tone of the inauthentic and the invented, it was the swiftness with which all values were forced in months to reverse themselves.
Death of a Salesman opened in February and was hailed by nearly every newspaper and magazine. Several movie studios wanted it and finally Columbia Pictures bought it, and engaged a great actor, Frederick March, to play Willy [the central character]. In two years or less, with the picture finished, I was asked by a terrified Columbia to sign an anti-communist declaration to ward off picket lines which the rightwing American Legion was threatening to throw across the entrances of theatres showing the film.
In the phone calls that followed, the air of panic was heavy. It was the first intimation of what would soon follow. I was sure the whole thing would soon go away; it was just too outrageous.
But instead of the problem disappearing, the studio actually made another film, a short to be shown with Salesman. This was called The Life of a Salesman and consisted of several lectures by City College School of Business professors - which boiled down to selling was a joy, one of the most gratifying and useful professions, and that Willy was simply a nut.
Never in show-business history has a studio spent so much good money to prove that its feature film was pointless. In less than two years Death of a Salesman had gone from being a masterpiece to being a heresy, and a fraudulent one at that. InI had the sensation of being trapped inside a perverse work of art, one of those Escher constructs in which it is impossible to make out whether a stairway is going up or down.
Practically everyone I knew stood within the conventions of the political left of centre; one or two were Communist party members, some were fellow-travellers, and most had had a brush with Marxist ideas or organisations. I have never been able to believe in the reality of these people being actual or putative traitors any more than I could be, yet others like them were being fired from teaching or jobs in government or large corporations.
The surreality of it all never left me. We were living in an art form, a metaphor that had suddenly, incredibly, gripped the country. It is always with us, this anxiety, sometimes directed towards foreigners, Jews, Catholics, fluoridated water, aliens in space, masturbation, homosexuality, or the Internal Revenue Department.
But in the 50s any of these could be validated as real threats by rolling out a map of China.
And if this seems crazy now, it seemed just as crazy then, but openly doubting it could cost you. So in one sense The Crucible was an attempt to make life real again, palpable and structured.
One hoped that a work of art might illuminate the tragic absurdities of an anterior work of art that was called reality, but was not.
It was the very swiftness of the change that lent it this surreality. Only three or four years earlier an American movie audience, on seeing a newsreel of Stalin saluting the Red Army, would have applauded, for that army had taken the brunt of the Nazi onslaught, as most people were aware.
Now they would look on with fear or at least bewilderment, for the Russians had become the enemy of mankind, a menace to all that was good. It was the Germans who, with amazing rapidity, were turning good. Could this be real? In the unions, communists and their allies, known as intrepid organisers, were to be shorn of membership and turned out as seditious.
Harry Bridges, the idol of west coast longshoremen, whom he had all but single-handedly organised, was subjected to trial after trial to drive him back to his native Australia as an unadmitted communist.
Academics, some prominent in their fields, were especially targeted, many forced to retire or fired for disloyalty. Some were communists, some were fellow travellers and, inevitably, a certain number were unaffiliated liberals refusing to sign one of the dozens of humiliating anti-communist pledges being required by terrified college administrations.
But it is impossible to convey properly the fears that marked that period.So like any savvy community theater, Olney Theatre Center has latched onto the phrase as the ultimate promotional material for Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” now through May Arthur Miller, a well known author at the time was accessed of communism.
He was terribly frightened that he's name would be forever tainted with this rumor. . Are You Now Or Were You Ever displays how Miller coped with being accused and how that lead him to write a story about the Salem witch trails.
Morals of the stories In the end The Crucible and Are You Now Or Were You Ever both have the same moral to tell. It's that is times of greed and desperation honesty is the best solution.
Oct 16, · After reading Arthur Miller's, The Crucible, I did not really get to know Arthur Miller as a person. All I know about Arthur Miller, which we discussed in class, is that he is Jewish, married to Marilyn Monroe, wrote The Crucible, and had a son with down syndrome.
Arthur Miller, "Are You Now Or Were You Ever?" from The Guardian/The Observer (on line), Saturday, June 17, Are you now or were you ever? The McCarthy era's anti-communist trials destroyed lives and friendships.
Jan 14, · It means that looking at what happened in the Salem witch trials was like looking through a microscope at dead and preserved bacteria growing upon a petri dish, so that now we can see exactly what was happening, a slice of life, that must have been like chaos tranceformingnlp.com: Resolved.