Recently, my wife finished Timebends, Arthur Miller’s autobiography. Patricia said the book wasn’t well written. I confess I haven’t read the book. But I have seen many of Arthur Miller’s play. Arthur Miller is a great playwright almost in spite of himself. His dialogue does not have the poetry of his contemporary Tennessee Williams. He’s never witty or clever. He never wrote the great American bar play like Eugene O’Neill
Why was he able to write masterpieces like the “Crucible” or “Death of a Salesman”? Arthur Miller saw the “Crucible” as a kind of parable of the McCarthy hearings. I remember seeing the play in 1990 at the Roundabout Theatre. It was about the time Kelly Michaels won her appeal and was released from prison. Kelly Michaels was a teacher at the Wee Care Day Center in New Jersey who was convicted of child abuse in the 1980s. The journalist Dorothy Rabinowitz led a successful campaign to have her conviction overturned. In this era. the 1980s and early 1990s, there were several other cases of alleged sexual abuse and Satanic worship at Day Care Centers.
William Kunstler, the famous lawyer, was in charge of Kelly Michaels’ appeal. He thought the persecution of Kelly Michael was not so much the result of a conscious conspiracy as the outcome of a shared delusion. William Kunstler said the the good people of Salem did sincerely believe that some of the young women in their community were victims of Demonic possession.
Both during the Salem Witch Trials and the Wee Care Day Center Trials, there was an enormous amount of community pressure “to believe the children.” When Arthur Miller wrote the Crucible, he might have thought he was writing a play about the importance of individual courage, the need to stand up for truth, and the duty to sacrifice oneself for principle. ” He did write that play. But he also wrote another play about the tragedy of self-deception also called “The Crucible.”