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Mass Hysteria Today and in The Crucible by Arthur Miller

In Cold War, Cool Medium: Television, McCarthyism and American Culture, Thomas

Doherty profiles the 1950’s Red Scare, also known as McCarthyism, and its vast effect on

American culture during that time. Doherty arms his audience with the revealing history behind

the rise and fall of Senator Joe McCarthy, as well as the roots of the anti-communist attitude

during the Cold War era that led to the rise of McCarthyism. He discusses the effects of

McCarthyism on the entertainment world of the 1950’s; the blacklisting of actors, actresses, and

producers; many important trials, such as the Army-McCarthy Hearings; and, finally, the end of

McCarthyism. An interesting section of the book titled I Love Lucy: The Redhead and the

Blacklist demonstrates that in a time of fear and political and religious upheaval, such as the anti-

Communist movement or the Salem witch trials, anyone can become a suspect, no matter his

reputation, stature, or public adoration. During the Salem witch-hunts, many knowledgeable,

outspoken persons—usually women—were accused of witchcraft. As in The Crucible, most

were accused on other premises, such as dislike, jealousy, or unsettled disputes. Similarly, during

the period of McCarthyism, anyone in contact or sympathizing with a suspected communist was

blacklisted, lost his job, or was arrested.

Such is the case with the actress Lucille Ball most known for the hit I Love Lucy and

perhaps “the most beloved and profitable performer of the 1950’s” (Doherty 49). In September

1953, during the height of the I Love Lucy show, it was announced in the media that Lucille Ball

was a member of the very party threatening the American way of life, the Communist party. Not

only was s…

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…of McCarthyism in the 1950’s.

As illustrated, both Rebecca Nurse and Lucille Ball were highly revered members of the

community affected by current states of fear, due to the witch trials and Communism,

respectively. The public stood behind both women, attesting to their good names. Unfortunately,

Rebecca was put to death by a court that was overshadowed by hysteria. On the other hand, Ball

was cleared. The tribulations of these women show just how far fear will allow people to push

the limitations of right and wrong.

Works Cited

Doherty, Thomas. Cold War, Cool Medium: Television, McCarthyism, and American Culture.

New York: Columbia UP, 2003.

Miller, Arthur. “The Crucible.” Heath Anthology of American Literature. Volume C: Late

Nineteenth Century 1865-1910. 5th ed. Ed. Paul Lauter. New York: Houghton Mifflin,

2006. 2053-2126.

The Masque (Mask) of the Red D, William Wilson, Tale of the Ragged Mountains, and House of Ush

Landscape in Masque of the Red Death, William Wilson, Tale of the Ragged Mountains, and House of Usher

A careful reading of Poe’s tales will quickly reveal the importance that landscape plays in the development of each literary work. “Ragged Mountains” has both a surreal and realistic landscape allowing Poe to use both the mental and the physical environment to explain his tale. This technique is also found in “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “William Wilson,” and “The Masque of the Red Death.” In these tales too the reader may tend to focus on the action at hand, and the psychological details, because that is what we are prone to do with Poe stories. However, it is also important to understand that physical landscape as well. As Daniel Philippon states in his article “Poe in the Ragged Mountains”: “Any search for a whole universe of suggestion must be held in check by the realities of the landscape in which it occurs.”

In “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains,” it is pretty obvious that the landscape is going to play an important part in the story – we are given the setting right in the title. However, a majority of the story actually takes place in an “Orientalized” locale that has been transposed into the Ragged Mountains. This alone is a great juxtaposition: the title describes what seems to be a run-down, unappealing landscape, while the real action takes place in fantastical setting. But why is the landscape so important if the psychological aspect is what Poe is trying to focus on? Most likely it is because the landscape gives us clues about what is actually happening in the minds of the characters, and hints at things that make the story clearer. For example, Bedloe starts his tale by describing “the thic…

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…dscape as well as a physical one, his pieces pack a more powerful punch, and always allow the reader to find hints about what is really going on at a deeper level. Since much of Poe’s ‘action’ is psychological, the landscape is an element of the story that can’t be ignored, and should not.

Works Cited:

Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Masque of the Red Death.” The American Tradition in Literature. Ed. George Perkins and Barbara Perkins. 9th ed. vol. 1. New York: McGraw, 1998.

Poe, Edgar Allan. “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains” [1843]; in Poe, ed. Harold Beaver. The Science Fiction of Edgar Allan Poe. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1976.

Poe, Edgar Allan. “William Wilson.” Selected Poetry and Prose of Poe. Ed. T. O. Mabbott. New York: Modern Library, 1951.

Poe, Edgar Allen. “The Fall of the House of Usher”. R.V.Cassill, ed. The Norton Fiction. New York, London, 1995.

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