Sunday, December 5, 2010

Research Paper on Salem with Trials

Research Paper on Salem with Trials

Historians have noted from time to time that witch-hunts took place more especially at the time when the society was passing through an economic, social, political and religious transition. In the 16th and 17th century, New England too was passing through that stage. In 1692, not only was the political uncertainty the rule of the day in New England, but people were also trying to cope up with changing phase of Economy from traditional Agricultural base to modern industrial one.

During that period, puritan ministers constantly tried to interpret those uncertain, confused and changing times in their sermons. Ministers concluded that that abiding by changed religions principles will incur God’s wrath and people will be punished through enormous catastrophes.

A small Village called Salem in Massachusetts; New England too was going through this phase. Population was barely 600. It was already known to be New England’s most contentious communities. Four parts of Salem other than Salem Village had already been incorporated separately. Salem Village got a controlled separation from Salem Town in 1672. Salem Village was allowed to construct their own meeting house and hire a minister. But Villagers had to pay all other taxes to Salem Town. Town selectmen continued to set prices for Villagers’ farm products and they had control over the land distribution. This made the already tense relationships between residents even worse. The Villages were divided into two groups: One supporting complete independence from the Town and the other opposing it. There were two rich and dominant families in the Village: Porters and Putnams. Porters were on the forefront in the Town politics while Putnams controlled Village affairs. Of course, Putnams were all for complete independence and Porters wanted the Town’s control over the Village. Finally, Salem Village got complete independence from the Town in 1679. Samuel Parris was hired as the first minister of the Village. Parris’ ministry was always in danger due to constant squabbling and differences among the Villagers. Parris also said that those who are ‘elect’ed by self-scrutiny and others’ judgment can be considered as the people chosen by God and their duty is to protect the Church from the followers of Devil. Parris excluded from the ‘elect’, those who could not prove that they were the people of God and he excluded his enemies from the ‘elect’. That made the matters even worse. In 1691, five members of the Porter faction namely, Joseph Porter, Joseph Hutchinson, Joseph Putnam, Daniel Andrew and Francis Nurse were elected to the Village committee. They immediately raised doubts over the legality of Parr’s property and sealed his salary for 1692. Parris was now in jeopardy. He started saying in his sermon that this was a Devil’s deed and that people were under threat from their own people and they should not trust even their close relatives. The pro-Parris faction sued the Village committee in the county court for sealing his salary. There is no record of the court ruling. This overall turmoil triggered the witch-hunt in Salem. Insecurity, confusion and fear made their home in people’s mind as they tried adjust to the changing political, economical, social and political atmosphere. Quarrels and feuds became rampant. No one was willing to trust anyone. Brothers stopped trusting each other. Neighbors started looking at each other suspiciously. All this resulted in mass hysteria.


17th century puritans believed in God as much as they did in Devil or Satan. It was a common belief that Devil or Satan was the power working against God. The power working against the good. The power that brings bad, evil things to life. It was a widespread belief in the 9th century that Devil possesses people, especially the faithless, and uses them do bad things and work against God. It was also believed in the 15th century that once a person is proved to be Devil’s Assistant, he or she can not be atoned for. Such a person will be always known a Witch or Wizard and he or she has to pay for it. Protestant puritans also had these beliefs. Even though they refused to accept the authority of the Roman Church, they accepted the philosophy of the Roman Church on Witchcraft and Devil. Luther said witches should be burnt at stake for being Devil’s assistants. Calvinist people also participated in the witch-hunt in a big way. Puritans believed that those who attend the Church regularly, who are faithful are the people of God and those who are faithless, those who do not attend Church can be and are used by the Devil to do bad work. Different sects started forming in the Christian religion in 16-17th century. The meaning of religiousness kept altering. At the same time Europe’s economy was becoming more and more global. It was turning from the traditional agricultural way to trading-export-import way. In those times of changing principles and ethics, people were living under tremendous insecurity, instability, confusion and uncertainty. So they ended up believing that Devil is at work for their bad fortune. It was already believed that Devil gets his job done by possessing someone and using that witch or wizard for his evil work. This entire situation was very conducive to spread the belief that witches exist in the community.

Fanatic is someone who is marked by excessive enthusiasm and has often intense uncritical devotion for his religion. If you look at fanaticism through the window of this definition, puritans of the 17th century were fanatics. They oppressed and killed others brutally due to their own intense religious beliefs. But if you look at it from a different angle, they might not be called fanatics unless you want to brand today’s society as fanatics as well. Most people from scholars and ministers to common people of the 17th century believed strongly in Devil and witches and wizards, today’s society believes equally fanatically in Science and Reasoning. Because of the wrong interpretation of changing situation and circumstances in the 17th century, accusations of witchcraft and wizardry were growing and the whole thing was perverted. The same logic can be applied to 20th century society. Aren’t the world wars and use of weapons of mass destruction like atomic bombs a perverse manifestation of excessive and fanatic exploitation of Science? In that sense, societies of these different centuries can be called fanatics.

80% of those who were accused of witchcraft were women. Especially poor women who belonged to lower social class were victimized because they were helpless, weak and oppressed. Naturally they were more susceptible to witchcraft accusations. Most of the accused women were middle-aged, ranging from 40 to 60 years of age. More specifically widows and never-married women were made targets. Women with fewer children than average were also targeted. As for widows, it was suspected that they used extraordinary means like Devil to satisfy their sexual needs. Widows or never-married women didn’t have a male’s support in that male dominated society, so they were easy and defenseless targets. Other major factor was the personality of the accused women. They were described as sharp-tongued, cranky and irritable, always in fights with their neighbors. So their cursing and yelling was regarded as a way to spell cast. Finally accused women were involved in one felony or another something like prostitution, adultery, abortion, not attending Church, something that good noble Christian women were never allowed to do. Women accused of witchcraft in Salem had these bad characteristics. For example, Tituba was Parris’ slave; poor and helpless. Sarah Osborne, an elderly woman, who had not gone to church over a year. Sarah Good was a homeless woman who begged door to door. If people failed to give her alms, she would utter unknown words and leave. People often attributed her visits to death of livestock. Martha Corey was known for being outspoken and opinionated. She also mothered an illegitimate child. Accusations weren’t solely limited to only poor and lower social class or women who had trouble with the law. But they formed the majority of the cases.

The victims of the witches of Salem village or the accusers who accused others as witches were mostly teenagers. But if you consider the entire 17th century, then it is evident that most of the victims were young men in their 20s and 30s. Relatively the number of women in their 20s and 30s and teenagers was less. John Demos suggests (page 31 of ‘The Story of Salem with Trials’) that young men desirous of an honorable social status, but unable to figure out what to do in those turbulent situations plunged into despair and fell prey to psychological problems. Young women in their early 20s and unmarried also might have got doubtful and insecure about their future. Women didn’t have freedom those days. There were a lot of restrictions. As a way to oppose those, as a rebellion or revenge against those, they accused middle aged women who were there mother’s age. In general, accusers shared those characteristics.

In ‘The Story of Salem with Trials’, author Bryan F Le Beau provides detailed account and explanation of the outbreak of witchcraft in Salem Village. The writer has very pointedly analyzed and explained witch hunts and witch trials. All the analysis and explanation provided by him are very feasible. Reasons for Salem witch hunt still remains a mystery. Historians have put forward multitude of theories; but everybody is at one that Salem witch hunt occurred during the period economical, political, religious overhaul and changing principles and ways of life. Naturally all these circumstances must have had an adverse effect on the Salem residents. A vicious atmosphere of tense and suspicious mentality spread throughout the village. Villages became extremely selfish and self-interested. The youth must have had the maximum impact of all this. At the age when they are supposed to be dreaming about their future, they already started feeling insecure about it. They were at a loss as to how to secure their future. They must have felt utterly helpless and miserable. To make it worse, entire Europe staunchly believed in the existence of Devil and witches at that time. Maybe girls like Betty or Abigail might have learnt about the effects and symptoms of witch spell cast or black magic from Tituba or books. Once it is set in your mind that you are suffering from so-and-so disease, the body might actually start showing those symptoms. The power of mind is enormous. Looking at Betty, other girls might have felt that she is getting all attention or ‘importance’, so to speak; or they might have felt that this is the best way out of depression and tension and fear; or it might be that the very imagination that a witch has got one of us, might have made their fear and mental stress unbearable resulting into hysteria.

All in all the account and explanation provided the author sound very feasible.

The author claims that the outbreak of witch hunt was a result of the hysterical reaction within New England communities. When communities, especially youngsters in the community, react this way, the question is primarily about their fear about their existence, insecurity and repercussions in the future and all unbearable stress that comes with it. When the mind does not find a way out of depression, insecurity, tension and fear, the person becomes hysterical. Once one sees another person in the same situation become hysterical, he/she is also inclined to go the same way. Even today’s America has faced a similar situation more or less. 1930-1939 which is considered the period of the Great Depression was also full of nightmares and mental depression. The US ecnomy had completely collapsed. Americans were questioning all maxims on which they had their lives – democracy, capitalism, individualism. Fortunately ways were thoughtfully found out of the deadlock and perverse hysteria like witch hunt didn’t repeat itself. America suffered a similar situation during cold war- suspicious atmosphere; fear that anything could happen anytime, uncertainty. Aurther Miller’s play, ‘The Crucible’ is a perfect example of that.

Even today’s situation in the USA is not all that encouraging. Economy is in recession. Jobs have been cut across the board. Unemployment is rising. Over and above, there’s now the hanging sword of terrorism by some religious fanatics. Every American is facing insecurity and fear to some extent. Moreover, America is a nation of immigrants. People from different countries and religions have made this country their abode. It could be easy to trigger conflicts in the diversity in the current situation. But that is precisely what we have to learn from the history. We should not repeat the mistakes and blunders of yesteryears. We have to attain Unity in Diversity and face tough times and disasters in the spirit of unity. If we can do this, victory is not too far.

Warning!!! All free online research papers, research paper samples and example research papers on Salem with Trials topics are plagiarized and cannot be fully used in your high school, college or university education.

Order Custom Research Paper on Salem with Trials
If you need a custom research paper, research proposal, essay, dissertation, thesis paper or term paper on your topic, will write your research papers from scratch. Starting at $12/page you can order custom written papers online. We work with experienced PhD. and Master's freelance writers to help you with writing any academic papers in any subject! High quality and 100% non-plagiarized papers guaranteed!