Comparison and contrast of the film “On the Waterfront” and the play “The Crucible”
Power refers to the ability and capability of influencing other people to do something,
alter their behavior or the course of an event. In the society, power is the most admirable
intellectual property to every member since its most valuable. In the play, "The Crucible," power
have been displayed in the various form, and some people who are in possession of it have
significantly used it for their advantages. The film and the Play explain how many individuals
both guilty and innocent were subjected to a variety of punishments and Injustices in the Era of
McCarthy in 1950 where many people were ridiculed, and others lost their lives (Peters). This
essay provides a comprehensive comparison and contrast of the Film “On the Waterfront”
directed by Elia Kazan and the play “The Crucible” written by the playwright Author Miller.
In both the play and the Film, the aspect of abuse of power is displayed. Many leaders in
those eras were widely known of misuse of power mostly in the judiciary. In the play “The
Crucible” this essence of abuse of authority is displayed in the Court systems. A quote in the
play says that “A person is either with the court or he must be counted against it-there be no road
in between” (Miller, p.87). These words were directly altered by Judge Danforth who is one of
the main characters in the play. Similar to McCarthy, the judge seems to be filled with power
such that the truth and the facts slipped into the background for the sake of personal interest and
enrichment. Many people were condemned to death by the judge under a mere allegation of
witchcraft practice, and they were ruled as witches same case as McCarthy used to brand many
spies and communists. In both play and the film, it clearly displays how people with power
accused innocent individuals based on faulty judgments.
In the Film and the play, there is hysteria in that the ordinary people feared the powerful.
In the film “On the water front,” the terror was due to the Senator Joseph McCarthy who started
accusation to the individuals of affiliation with the American Communist Party. Since the senator
had the power, he used the unlawful process to accuse people even when there was no enough
supportive evidence to mandate the judgment. Example of this is the case of Ethel Rosenberg,
Alger Hiss and Julius who were convicted of espionage against the United States of America and
subversion to communist. Hiss was forced to spend the rest of his life trying to overcome the
stigma, and their crimes executed the situation of Ethel's (Both husband and wife).
Both the film and the play are good examples of McCarthyism this is due to the
conditions, and the environments in which main characters in the works are placed has a close
similarity to the events of America in the 1950s. For instance, Terry Malloy, the main character
in the film “On the Waterfront” was forced by the circumstance in which he was to inform on
Johnny Friendly, a man with an ironic name who was corrupt labor leader leading to Friendly
being presented to the congressional committee. Friendly there before had committed some
crimes one of them being responsible for the Maunder of Malloy’s brother.
Also on the film, the issue of corruption is evident more precisely, some characters used
intimidations at the hands of others same case a McCarthy and his cohorts used to so in the real
world environment in the early 1950s. Just like the senator, Johnny friendly used whatever he
can to protect and advance his interest and also kept his subordinates dependent on his command.
The workers on the Dock relied on Johnny to feed their families and earn a living represents
thousands of Americans who relied on the senator. In the Play, Miller shows how the
community was trapped with the allegations of witchcrafts. One of the main characters in the
play, Mary Warren said that “the whole country is talking witch craft!” (Miller, p.17). This false
accusation at this late date is impossible to measure, but they resulted in many innocent people
denied their right of making a living in their professions, some executed and some thrown in
In conclusion, the film “On the Waterfront “and the play “The Crucible” displays high
similarity with the McCarthy era in America as they both reflect the oppression and injustice.
The playwright Miller and Elia Kazan, their works expressed their terror and outrage for what
America is facing in the form of hearings and the results of McCarthy. The works reflect the art
commenting on life.
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Dombrowski, Lisa. Kazan Revisited. Wesleyan UP, 2011.
Miller, Arthur. The Crucible: A Play in Four Acts. 2016.
Neve, Brian. “On the Waterfront.” History Today June 1995: 19+.
Peters, Charles. “McCarthyism: Myth and Reality.” Washington Monthly May 2006: 8.