The witch hunt is perhaps the most significant symbol in the play. The because the play deals with historical problems that attend the House Committee on Un-American Activities and the hunt for communists in American society, the entirety of the witch hunt stands as symbol for this series of events. As the play enacts the hysterical and authoritarian practices of Puritan Salem, so the country was led by an analogous set of irrational motivations and authoritarian methods. The communist witch hunt destroyed people in the United States unjustly just as the witch hunt in the play ends with hanging innocent people.
Inspired by the McCarthy hearings in the early 1950s, The Crucible is an indictment of authoritarian rule led by hysterical motives. Miller based the play on the Salem Witch Trials of the 1690s, which he had studied. By setting the play in Puritan Colonial America, Miller is able to create the oppressive atmosphere which he saw in the McCarthy hearing and the red scare that fueled them. The problem of irrational belief which over-rides justice and decency is at work in both the witch trials and the red scare. By situating his indictment in the 17th century, Miller is able to dramatize the superstition and irrationality of the McCarthy hearings.