Question Emily Art, Media & Literature

What are the similarities between The Crucible and The Lottery?

What are the similarities between The Crucible and The Lottery?

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The Crucible (1953) is a play by Arthur Miller; ‘The Lottery’ (1948) is a short story by Shirley Jackson. While they deal with vastly different time periods (The Crucible is set in the 1690s at the Salem Witch Trials, while ‘The Lottery’ takes place in the 1940s), the central plot is driven by the same idea: both texts display a society who are convinced that the fate of (and flaws within) that society are attributable to a supernatural source. In ‘The Lottery’, the scapegoat is chosen via a random process of selection, whereas the townspeople in The Crucible first target the weakest in society (the poor, women) and gradually eliminate other subversive characters as they gain traction. Both texts also contain themes which resonate with McCarthyism, a hysterical fear of communism which gripped America during the 1950s. Encouraged by Senator Joseph McCarthy, numerous people were accused of being covert communists and were persecuted based on this suspicion, which created an atmosphere of hostility and fear throughout America. Miller was himself interrogated by the House of Representatives’ Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) under suspicion of communist activity. While Jackson’s story was published before this reached fever pitch, anti-communist hysteria in America was beginning to rise at the time of publication. Consequently, the societies in these texts are affected by their pursuit of the perceived ‘problem’ rendering prejudice and hypocrisy abundant in both. Neither text’s characters display any sympathy for those being persecuted, only relief that they themselves have not been selected to be sacrificed to satisfy the baying mob – this adds a level of commentary about the perils of conformity. Ultimately, the texts both display a hysterical society which utilises a scapegoat to shoulder the blame for its perceived ills, and proceeds sacrifice them for the perceived ‘greater good.’


Jackson, S. (1948). ‘The Lottery’. In: The Lottery and Other Stories. London: Penguin Classics.
Miller, A. (1953). The Crucible. London: Penguin Classics.