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Comparing Salem Possessed By Paul Boyer, The Story Of The Salem Witch Trials By Bryan Le Beau, And Devil In The Shape Of A Woman By Carol Karlsen

1878 words - 8 pages

Comparing "Salem Possessed" by Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, "The Story of the Salem Witch Trials" by Bryan Le Beau, and "The Devil in the Shape of a Woman" by Carol Karlsen

The Salem Witch Trials of 1692 spread just about as fast as the Black Plague. This epidemic caused chaos among neighbors in a community. The chronology of events describes an awful time for colonists from June 10th to September 22nd of that year. The books "Salem Possessed" by Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, "The Story of the Salem Witch Trials" by Bryan Le Beau, and "The Devil in the Shape of a Woman" by Carol Karlsen all describe these events and provide varying explanations for the epidemic that plagued Salem Village. This review will look at the facts that surrounded the trials and then using those facts will look at the cause stated in each book for the hysteria to compare and contrast with one another.

The trials themselves began following an instance involving Betty Parris, Abigail Williams, and Ann Putnam, 3 young girls in the village. (Dufour, 248) The girls were caught performing fortune-telling rituals in the woods outside the village. The claimed at the time that they were trying to find information on the type of man that would be most suitable for them to marry. Soon after this event the girls began to experience hysterical type fits. These fits prompted Reverend Samuel Parris, the father of Betty Parris, to call on authorities to find an explanation for the fits. The explanation they found was very simple: witchcraft.

As the months went on more girls began to experience the same sort of events. It was only after intense questioning that the girls revealed the names of those afflicting them: Sarah Osborne, Sarah Good, and Rev. Parris' servant Tituba. (Dufour, 249) It was this revelation that sparked the fire of witch hunting that would eventually get radically out of control as the year continued.

Common sense should tell any human that such an isolated event was not capable of causing such hysteria among villagers. For hundreds of years scholars, among them the previously mentioned authors, have researched the various factors that influenced the witch hunting to spread. The first factor that helps put the whole story in motion is the arrival of the arrival of Reverend Samuel Parris as the new minister for the church in Salem Village.

On November 19, 1689 the Reverend Parris, with his family at his side, was ordained the new minister for the Salem Village Church. (Boyer & Nissenbaum, 153) Reverend Parris came to Salem at a very tumultuous time. The church had just gained its independence from the church in Salem Town, thus causing many rifts among residents of both the village and the town.

From the start, Parris was a poor leader for the town. He was continually concerned more with increasing his salary and living allowances than he was with the happenings of the village. Parris himself also became a centerpiece...

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