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Salem Witch Trials Essay

1264 words - 6 pages

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)
In the early winter of 1692, the first speculations of witchcraft happened with the female children of Salem. Nine-year old Betty Paris, the daughter of Reverend Parris, and 11-year-old Abigail Williams, the niece of Reverend Parris, began to display terrifying and peculiar behavior. Their outburst, 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 were many different theories of the why the girls were acting the way they did. Family feud, illnesses, influences, and witchcraft are potential concepts of the witchcraft hysteria that 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. 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 wants and views for Salem, as Kate Murphy said “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 of arguments over land disputes and personal clashes that landed in the court, further showing the animosity in the village. This feud also fed the accusations of witchcraft towards the opposing family out of jealousy, revenge, and resentment. The Putnam family heavily contributed to the hysteria (Karlson). Ann Putnam Sr. and Ann Putnam Jr., who claimed that sixty-two people had afflicted 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.
Another topic that was discussed as the reason of the odd behaviors was through illness, especially ergot poisoning. Ergot is a fungus that can be found in rye and cereal grains. It is very dangerous because the signs of infiltration on crops will disappear after one year. Also, it is a localized fungus, the poisoning affects the nervous system, and it is not contagious. As Anna K-Z said, the weather conditions and the symptoms of ergot poisoning mirrors the ones of assumed bewitchment. The symptoms of ergot are hallucinations, muscle contractions, confusion, delusions, and the feeling of...

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