Books: The Time of the Toad - A Study of Inquisition in America by Dalton Trumbo

Dalton Trumbo was an American screenwriter that had his livelihood destroyed by the Red Scare of the 1950s. He was blacklisted from Hollywood for being a Communist. In secret, he wrote two movies that won Oscars for Best Story under a pseudonym. This is his defense of free speech in the face of government oppression. His life was turned into a movie titled Trumbo, which was very good. He is one of the best writers you will ever read and an exciting character that you'll end up appreciating.

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The Time of the Toad is a searing classic about political repression in America by the legendary screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. In the early 1940s, Trumbo and many other artists, writers, and intellectuals who shared anti-war sympathies and anti-fascist ideals were active members of the American communist party, but their ideology did not go unnoticed. In 1947, during the era of Joseph McCarthy and the “Red Scare” in America, he and nine other Hollywood screenwriters (the “Hollywood Ten”), were called to testify before the U.S. government’s House Committee on Un-American Activities Commission. Trumbo and others who refused to cooperate were charged with contempt; he later served nearly a year in prison and was blacklisted as a screenwriter for the following decade. The Time of the Toad explores both the contempt citations and the greater philosophical issues they raised for the nation.

The toad of the title is in reference to an 1890s article by Émile Zola in which the animal in question serves as a rhetorical metaphor for how to survive living in a repressive socio-political environment. Zola suggested that you have to swallow a live toad each day to immunize yourself to the moral indifference of the society around you. The analogy was as apt during Trumbo’s time in the mid-twentieth century, and unfortunately is still relevant and meaningful. The Time of the Toad remains a powerful testament to the courage of Trumbo’s principled stand, and a timeless treatise on the value of free speech and thought.

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