Commentary Magazine


Mr. Warshow Replies

To the Editor:

Mr. Rothman’s letter seems to me another example of the confused and unsubstantial “liberalism” that I attempted to analyze in my article. The political issue is whether the American community is in fact “ridden by fear,” and I criticized Mr. Miller for elaborately pretending to deal with this issue while he was at every point evading it. In short, Mr. Miller is drawing emotional checks on an account in which there are insufficient funds; his audience’s willingness to pass these bad checks happily from hand to hand does not alter the situation: sooner or later someone will have to present them at the bank.

My article did not discuss the substantive question of what the American political atmosphere is like at the present time, but perhaps I should say that, whatever my political dissatisfactions, I do not feel myself “ridden by fear.” And I don’t believe Mr. Rothman does either.

As for Mr. Marcus’s objections:

1. I did not know that the Salem trials were ex post facto prosecutions, but the point is irrelevant, and Mr. Miller himself never raises it. For him the “civil rights” aspect of the trials arises entirely from the innocence of the defendants; the “parallels” to the cases of Alger Hiss, the Rosenbergs, etc., are emphasized in the play (and the emphasis is quite clear) in order to obtain for these people the kind of sympathy that would be theirs if they too were innocent, and yet without actually having to make such a claim for them, since, of course, the claim could not stand up. I do not necessarily assume, however, that Mr. Miller thinks the Rosenbergs or Alger Hiss innocent; more probably he thinks their guilt is not important—a more absurd position, but more sheltered from the winds of reality.

2. Hawthorne did not use the Puritans as counters in the political game of his own time; I praised him precisely for “taking the Puritans in their own terms as among the real possibilities of life.” (Also, I for one am quite willing to “accuse” Melville of creating real characters.)

3. Since I myself belong to the numerous class of those who are disturbed at the activities of Senator McCarthy, I would not think of regarding all people so disturbed as Communist dupes or rogues. I can see nothing in my article that would justify such an impression, and, for that matter, nothing in the writings of Sidney Hook, Irving Kristol, or any other contributor to COMMENTARY that I can recall.

Robert Warshow
New York City

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