StoryWeb: Storytime for Grownups
About This Show
StoryWeb: Storytime for Grownups features stories you’ll love to hear – fiction, memoir, poetry, film, song, oral storytelling, and more. Listen as master storyteller Linda Tate talks about literature and other stories each week – and be sure to catch those special weeks when Linda reads the stories to you. Visit TheStoryWeb.com to learn more, share your thoughts about this week’s story, and subscribe to a free weekly email highlighting the featured story.
Most Recent Episode
109: Arthur Miller: "The Crucible"
4 days ago
This week on StoryWeb: Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible. Last week, I featured Kathleen Kent’s fascinating novel The Heretic’s Daughter, which tells the story of Martha Carrier, Kent’s ninth great-grandmother, who was hanged as a witch in 1692 as part of the Salem Witch Trials. Fourteen women and six men were executed as suspected witches, one by being “pressed” to death with large stones, the rest by hanging. Many theories have been offered over the centuries for this heinous treatment of Salemites by their neighbors. What originally began as hysterical accusations by young girls quickly swept Salem and surrounding villages. Neighbors pointed fingers at neighbors, often those whom against they had long held grudges. No one was safe. American playwright Arthur Miller – who was born 101 years ago today – saw parallels between the Salem Witch Trials and the McCarthy communism hearings of the 1950s, which came to be known as “witch hunts.” Led by Senator Joseph McCarthy, the hearings targeted numerous people McCarthy claimed were Communists and Soviet spies and sympathizers inside the U.S. federal government and in other circles. Miller – himself convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to name others who had been at meetings he had attended – knew all too well how accusers could band together, circle the wagons, and exclude and point fingers at those whom they feared. As Americans from all walks of life were called in to testify before the House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities, they were grilled not only about their own suspected Communist activities but – even more frighteningly – asked to name names. Who among their relatives, friends, and acquaintances did they suspect of being disloyal to the United States? The McCarthy witch hunts particularly targeted Hollywood and other areas of the arts. Producers, directors, screenwriters, composers, writers, and far too many actors to name were accused of being Communist sympathizers. And in 1950s America, branding someone as a Communist sympathizer was indeed equivalent to the Puritans targeting a neighbor as a witch. Well-known performers and artists who were “blacklisted” include Charlie Chaplin, Burl Ives, Langston Hughes, Aaron Copland, Paul Robeson, Will Geer (of “The Waltons”), and even Arthur Miller himself. In many cases, their careers were destroyed forever. You can see a ful