Potential Causes Of The Salem Witch Trials

2128 words - 9 pages

In the early winter of 1692, the first speculations of witchcraft occurred with the female children of Salem. Reverend Parris’ daughter nine-year old Betty Parris, and his niece Abigail Williams, began to display terrifying and peculiar behavior. Their outbursts, body contortions, and eerie actions were similar to the ones of the Goodwin children in 1688. Soon after, other Salem girls began to demonstrate the symptoms that flabbergasted the town.
There are many literatures works and in-depth studies over the trials. Even now, there is still no certain reason why or how the hysteria of witchery befell on the village. The Salem Witch Trials are best described by George Lincoln Burr:
The episode is one of the nation's most notorious cases of mass hysteria, and has been used in political rhetoric and popular literature as a vivid cautionary tale about the dangers of isolationism, religious extremism, false accusations and lapses in due process. (197)
There were different theories of why the Salem girls acted the way they did. Family feuds, influences, ergot poisoning, and the bewitchment of Satan are potential concepts of the witchcraft hysteria. Not to mention, the female stereotype of witches through lack of religious faith and social class caused the deaths of nineteen people and unforgivable scars and pain for dozens more.
Historical evidence points out family feuds between the Putnam and Porter families, an important theory to the reasons behind the accusations. The whole town of Salem was a part and engaged in this heated quarrel for the control of the village. The two families had different views for Salem and Kate Murphy said it divided the village into two factions, “One interested in gaining more autonomy for Salem Village and led by the Putnam family, and the other, interested in the mercantile and political life of Salem Town and led by the Porter family.” The two families did not see eye to eye, leading to a great separation in the village of Salem. There were numerous arguments over land disputes and personal clashes that landed them in court, further showing the animosity in the village. This feud also fed the accusations of bewitchment towards the opposing family out of jealousy, revenge, and resentment. According to Anastasia Karlson, the Putnam family heavily contributed to the hysteria. Ann Putnam Sr. and Ann Putnam Jr., who claimed that sixty-two people had tormented her, were highly active in the courtroom and people would come just to watch their performance. Thomas Putnam, the husband of Ann Putnam Sr. and father of Ann Putnam Jr., was the chief filer of complaints of the court. Also, the accused and the afflicted where found to be related to the Putnam family one way or another.
It is not unusual for children to follow the actions of the other children and adults. Regardless of age, it is the norm to “jump on the bandwagon” to escape isolation and judgment. Another theory for the hysteria was that the indicators shown by...

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