Salem Witch Trials

Table of Content

The Salem Witch Trials of 1692 were a series of trials resulting in the deaths of twenty-four people accused of witchcraft. These trials were influenced by various social factors, including the absence of a governor, the division between Salem Village and Salem Town, and the strict puritan way of life during that period. One key figure involved was Tituba, a black slave from Barbados who served Mr. Parris’s family. Her involvement was driven by Mr. Parris’s promise of freedom if she confessed guilt. Tituba also realized that by falsely confessing to being a witch, she could secure her own life and validity of her confession by accusing others in the village. However, the underlying cause of the witch trials was the highly rigid puritan lifestyle at the time. Another contributing factor to the social climate of these trials was the lack of a governor in Salem, which resulted in a state of chaos and no authoritative figure.

During the time when Massachusetts was still under British rule, it was necessary for government officials to be sent over from Britain to America. While the colony awaited the arrival of their new governor, the witch trials were taking place. According to “Life in Salem 1692,” by the time Governor William Phips arrived in Massachusetts, the jails were already filled with people accused of witchcraft. This demonstrates that the absence of a governor during a significant portion of the witch trials played a role in the social atmosphere. Without an authoritative figure, the trials lacked true justice.

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If a governor had been present during the witch trials, the outcome of deaths caused by false accusations may have been different. Another factor that contributed to the social climate was the division between Salem Town and Salem Village, which led to social disorder due to tension between the two sides. Salem Town, being a more affluent and prosperous area, was considered elite, while Salem Village was a lower-class farming community. The Village wanted independence from the Town because many farming families believed that Salem Town’s prosperous economy fostered excessive individualism.

The opposition to the communal nature practiced by Puritanism was characterized as individualism (Sutter, par. 3). This led to a separation led by Rev. Samuel Parris, who began conducting sermons at the Salem Village Meetinghouse. Parris’s decision to increase local taxes at the church to satisfy his needs created a faction of villagers who disagreed with him. The tension between the Village and the Town contributed to the social climate, as Parris played a significant role in instigating the witch trials, causing people to have biased opinions about his views on the trials.

Another factor that contributed to the social climate was the strict puritan lifestyle. The puritans believed in both God and the devil, and those who followed God were considered to be witches. Activities deemed as “the devil’s work” in the puritan lifestyle would lead to accusations of witchcraft. Furthermore, these strict puritan ways were particularly hard on children, who were expected to abide by the same rules as adults. Expressing any emotions such as excitement, fear, or anger was discouraged, and disobedience was severely punished.

According to “Life in Salem 1692: Puritan Children” (par. 1), children rarely engaged in play due to a lack of toys and games, as Puritans considered such activities to be sinful distractions. This scarcity affected girls more than boys, as they had limited ways of expressing themselves and had access to very little. These facts support the idea that the puritan lifestyle influenced the social climate of the time, as people would not have associated ordinary activities with witchcraft without such strong moral standards. In society, Tituba served as a slave to Rev. Parris’s family.

Tituba, who was purchased by Parris in Barbados, was considered a foreigner in Salem. In this time period, slaves had no rights, so Tituba’s only responsibilities were tending to Parris’s children and managing the household. This specific situation greatly influenced Tituba’s involvement in the witch trials. As a slave, she didn’t carry much respect in society, making it easier for people to perceive her as a witch without any objections since she wasn’t seen as a respectable person worth defending. To illustrate, while taking care of Parris’s children, Tituba would entertain little Betty and her cousin Abigail Williams near the kitchen fire during the evenings.

According to the text (Tituba, par. 4), Tituba engaged in fortune telling games and shared tales of magic and spirits from the Caribbean. This demonstration highlights how Tituba’s societal position influenced her involvement in the witch trials, as these trials were influenced by others’ perceptions of a person’s place in society. Should a person of high social standing be accused of witchcraft, there would likely be public outcry. In contrast, if someone of lower social status faced an accusation, it would carry less weight among the general population. Tituba’s role in the trials was that of an accuser, contributing to the guilty verdicts of those accused.

Tituba accused Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne of being witches, which ultimately resulted in more convictions. According to Barillari (par. 8), Tituba’s confession served as the evidence the judges were seeking, stimulating both the court and the girls to uncover and convict more individuals involved in the alleged conspiracy of witches in Salem Village. Thus, Tituba’s role as the accuser played a vital part in obtaining guilty verdicts for other accused persons, as she confessed to having knowledge of additional witches in order to secure her own survival.

The root of the witch hysteria was primarily the strict puritan lifestyle, which prohibited any outward signs of emotion or imagination. The puritans viewed any emotional expressions as the devil’s work, although in reality it was simply a form of entertainment. An instance of this is when Abigail and her friends accused Tituba of causing Betty’s illness, simply because she was caught demonstrating magic tricks to the girls.

Despite the fact that the tricks were merely for sport, Tituba was still charged with practicing witchcraft and had to deceive and endanger others in order to protect herself. This situation empowered the girls to target anyone they wished to accuse of being a witch, resulting in numerous false allegations. These occurrences demonstrate that the strict puritan way of life was the main cause of the witch hysteria, as the puritans’ rigid beliefs in the devil led to an excessive reaction towards the girls’ innocent amusement, which served as their only outlet for self-expression.

The Salem Witch Trials of 1692 significantly affected the residents of Salem during that period. The absence of government, political unrest, and strict puritan way of life all contributed to the tension and frenzy surrounding the witch trials. Tituba, a black slave responsible for taking care of Rev. Parris’ family, was accused of witchcraft due to her familiarity with foreign magic tricks and lower social standing.

She then admits to falsely stating that she is a witch and admits to having knowledge of other witches in the village, including Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne. In general, the primary factor behind the witch hysteria was the puritan way of life. This is due to the fact that the puritan lifestyle not only imposed stringent limitations on its adherents, but also instilled a mindset in them that prevented them from perceiving the true reasons behind the “fits” and “outbursts” displayed by the suspected witches.

Works Cited

Barillari, Alyssa. Salem Witch Trials: Tituba. ” Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities. 2001. Web. 07 Dec. 2010.

. “Life In Salem 1692. ” Discoveryeducation. com. Discovery Education. Web. 18 Nov. 2010.

. “Life In Salem 1692: Puritan Children. ” Discoveryeducation. com. Discovery Education. Web. 30 Nov. 2010.

. Sutter, Tim. “Salem Witchcraft: The Events and Causes of the Salem Witch Trials. ” Salem Witch Trials Page – History of the 1692 Witch Trials in Salem. 2000. Web. 07 Dec. 2010.