American Civilization and AP U.S. HistoryDr. Salinger
Assignment Sheet for The Crucible project Dr. Schulkin

          As Christopher Bigsby points out in his introduction to the Penguin edition of the play, Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible in response to a series of events he witnessed during the 1940s and early 1950s.  In particular, it was the hearings held by the House Un-American Activities Committee which finally convinced Miller to write the play. "The main point of the hearings," he explained in his autobiography, "precisely as in seventeenth-century Salem, was that the accused make public confession, damn his confederates as well as his Devil master, and guarantee his sterling new allegiance by breaking disgusting old vows" (x).

          The fact that Arthur Miller saw important parallels between the Salem Witch Trials of the 1690s and the anti-communist witch hunts of the early 1950s and incorporated some of these insights into The Crucible raises important questions about the relationship between history and literature.  Select ONE of the following questions involving the relationship between history and literature as the focus for your paper:

        1)  Compare what you know about the McCarthy era with Arthur Miller's depiction of the 1690s in The Crucible.  Explore such issues as the political climate in each case, the chief antagonists, and note Arthur Miller's involvement in the events of the 1950s.  You are encouraged to draw upon the ideas and information in Bigsby's introduction to the Penguin edition.  You may also find it helpful to consult the interviews with Arthur Miller and the information on the events of the 1950s contained on The Crucible CD-ROM.

        2)  Read the Web pages entitled "An Account of Events in Salem", "Arthur Millerís The Crucible: Fact & Fiction" and Christopher Bigsby's Introduction to The Crucible (New York: Penguin Books, 1995).  It is also recommended that you consult the relevant portions of the "17th Century" section of the The Crucible CD-ROM.   Drawing upon these sources for evidence, explain how Arthur Miller might have written The Crucible without departing significantly from the existing historical record.  Specify who the major protagonist and antagonist might have been and the nature of the conflict between them.  Illustrate your essay by writing or rewriting a brief scene in which you dramatize the nature of this central conflict.  (Hint: documented sources of conflict in Salem in the 1690s include: theological disputes, differences of opinion regarding the proper conduct of a minister, regularity of attendance at church services, insulting or offensive remarks, disagreements over land ownership or boundaries, and differing conceptions of the proper behavior for females.)

        Regardless of which option you choose, your paper should be between 1000 and 1500 words in length.   It should be word processed in a 12 point font and doubled spaced.   It is due in class on Monday, October 1.