One of the books I picked up for the library’s Summer Reading Program was Arthur Miller’s The Crucible: A Play in Four Acts. Although I have seen the Winona Ryder movie version, I tried to ignore those memories while reading it. The Crucible is based on the true events, and people, of the 17th century Salem, Massachusetts witch trials. The small town of Puritans becomes hysterical when accusations of witchery condemn many of the community’s most respected members. The town leaders and prosecutors will not listen to reason, and ruthlessly bring those accused to “justice”, based on the cries of girls in the community.
The Crucible was written as an allegory to the 1950’s McCarthy communist witch-hunts, bringing to light the destructive power of fear and mob-mentality. This is a short play that can be read in a few hours, but it is remarkable in it’s ability to frighten. It is all the more emotional because the reader is aware that witches are fictional, and yet these people are dying because their religion says that they do exist, and there is no way for them to prove they are not witches. They must either confess to witchcraft, of which they are of course innocent, or be hanged (talk about faulty logic). The Crucible is a powerful play that remains a warning against theocracy at any interval in time, and reading it is an excellent way to spend an afternoon.