Arthur Miller and his Distorted Historical Accuracies

In 1953, Arthur Miller wrote his famous play The Crucible, in response to a fear of Communism that had developed in the United States during that decade. The "Red Scare", as it was later called by historians was led by Senator Joseph McCarthy, whose paranoia of a communist takeover spread through the nation like a wildfire. Men and women alike fell victim to McCarthy?s pointed finger and as a result of this hysteria, were mostly deported from the country, their careers and lives ruined.

Some argue today that McCarthy?s plan had been to use the fear of the American people to throw his enemies out of office and gain power himself. Whatever McCarthy?s motives may have been, Arthur Miller realized the senator?s ludicracy when he attempted to accuse the President himself to be Communist. Miller and the rest of the American people drew the line and McCarthy was seen a fraud. By the time the rest of the public had came to this realization, Miller?s play was written.

The Crucible is a play in which Arthur Miller parallels events of the Salem witch trials of 1692 to the problems that were plaguing his own society. The statement that most readers today bring out of the play is that history has a way of repeating itself. Miller?s play was an extreme hit upon release and won a Tony award. The play is so popular today that many teachers in secondary schools use it to base their lesson around when teaching their students about 1692 Salem and there are multimedia activities based on Salem through The Crucible?s view. Miller is often asked to speak at events where similar "witch hunts" occur, acting as a sort of expert on the subject of Puritan Salem and acts of hysteria.

The question is, why is Arthur Miller revered by so many as "the man to ask" regarding the Salem Witch trials when his play had many inaccuracies, some very obvious? Miller?s play is not a historical account of the events in 1692 Salem, but rather a work of fiction. It is important to realize that what Miller wrote is not fact by revealing where his play is historically flawed. Some of the more important discrepancies are discussed below:

By examining Miller?s main plot relationship between characters Abigail Williams and John Proctor, we uncover many discrepancies, mainly that there was no relationship at all. To begin, there was never any love interest between the two of them and according to Susan Cocalis, Professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst; the two hardly came in contact at all. In fact, John Proctor was old enough to be Abigail?s grandfather.

Where Arthur Miller represents Proctor as a 35-year old farmer and Abigail as a 17-year old, lust-crazed teenager, the reality is quite different. John Proctor was actually the owner of a tavern on the outskirts of town and aged 60. Even if you were to argue that Proctor and Williams made frequent contact (In Miller?s play, she worked for Elizabeth Proctor, John?s wife), Abigail was only eleven. The idea that she would be chasing after a man five times her age would be unlikely, not to mention that she probably wouldn?t have any sexual interests for at least five years. The two engaging in a sexual affair would prove quite a comedy if we consider that Mr. Proctor would most-likely have had problems with impotence at his age, and Abigail would not be sexually active. The act would have been more of molestation by John Proctor than an affair.

As for Elizabeth Proctor?s encounters with Abigail Williams; Miller writes Abigail to hate Elizabeth for standing in the way of her desire. The historical truth is that Abigail and Elizabeth (John?s third wife, aged 41) hardly knew each other. There is no way that Elizabeth Proctor could have ever thrown Abigail from the Proctor house because the truth is that Abigail never worked for the Proctors; they lived in different sections of town.

Other than her age and affair with John Proctor, there are other differences between reality and Miller?s play regarding Abigail Williams. In The Crucible, Abigail is a scheming villain-like character with cruel intention. According to the story, when the hysteria is lifted from the community and Abigail is exposed as a fraud, she steals a total of 31 pounds from her Uncle Samuel Parris and runs