The Crucible Unit

This unit will explore multiple themes in both the play The Crucible and real historical contexts in order to deepen our understanding of human nature while sharpening our literary analysis skills.  As we read, heavy emphasis will be placed on using textual evidence to support character and theme analysis.  We will also work on strengthening research skills.  Our summative assessment will involve analyzing how a common theme can be seen during both the play and the McCarthy trials based on an analysis of a variety of sources.

Learning Targets:

  1. I can identify common themes in more than one text.
  2. I can explain how writers develop themes using plot, character, setting and other details.
  3. I can cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support my analysis of the text.
  4. I can clearly explain complex ideas in my writing.

What we’ll read:

  • Assorted background readings
  • The Crucible by Arthur Miller
  • "The Trial of Arthur Miller" by John Steinbeck
  • McCarthyism Packet        
  • Use to research primary and secondary documents related to the McCarthy Trials

Summative Assessment:

Historical Perspective Research Paper: Examining Thematic Connections Between The Crucible and McCarthyism

Prompt: Choose one theme from the list below and write a literary research paper comparing and contrasting how that theme is developed both in the Salem Witch Trials as portrayed in The Crucible and during the Red Scare and McCarthy Trials.  Well developed responses must draw on a wide range of evidence from the play as well as your sources in the form of specific details and excerpts with proper MLA citations.



  1. Hysteria leads to intolerance.
  2. Intolerance leads to hysteria.
  3. Fear and suspicion can ruin a society.
  4. People who claim to be good can really be hypocrites.
  5. People can use ideas of good and virtue to advance a selfish or malevolent agenda.
  6. It is better to suffer with integrity than compromise your honor, decency and faith to protect yourself.

Research Databases, Websites and Texts:

  • US History in Context (Database on
  • Biographies in Context (Database on

Sources:  You need to use at least 5 sources in addition to the play to develop your paper.

Length: 3-5 pages

Format: Use proper MLA format including in-text citations and works cited page.

Building Background

Witcraft in America (Video Link with Questions)

Analyzing Themes in The Crucible

Google Slides

This slideshow will provide learning targets and activities for the unit.

Theme Development Sheet

This sheet can be filled out at the end of each act to help students make connections between the themes and the specific events in each act.

Theme Practice Assessment

Use this practice assessment to gage students' ability to analyze theme after reading Acts 1 and 2.  A sample of an exemplary response to this assignment can be found here.

Summative Assessment


The summative assessment for this unit is a common theme paper where students research McCarthyism and write a paper examining a common theme that applies to both the play and the time period when the play was written.  You can access the assignment here.


Use this rubric, which is aligned with Common Core Standards, to assess student work.

Anchor Papers

Download: Advanced_The_Crucible_and_McCarthyism_Sample_Paper.docx

Download: Proficient_Paper_The_Crucible_and_McCarthyism_IB.docx

Download: Basic_The_Crucible_and_McCarthyism_Sample_Paper.docx

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