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Salem Witch Trials

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    The Salem Witch Trials of 1692 were a series of trials in which twenty-four people were killed after being accused of practicing witchcraft. These trials were caused by different social climates of the area including the very strong lack of a governor, the split between Salem Village and Salem Town, and the strict puritan lifestyle during the time period. Tituba, the black slave, was a foreigner from Barbados. Her role in society was to take care of Mr. Parris’s family. Tituba’s situation contributed to her role in the witch trials because Mr. Parris promised her freedom if she confessed guilty. Tituba also realized that with her false confession of being a witch also helped keep her life, therefore she accused other people in the village to keep her confession legitimate. However, the ultimate cause of the witch trials was due to the extremely strict puritan lifestyle of the time. One contributing factor that was responsible for the social climate of the witch trials was the towns lacking of a governor. Salem lacking a governor gave them no authority figure, leading to chaos.

    Since Massachusetts was still under the rule of Great Britain, they had to send over any government officials over to America from Britain. While the colony was waiting for their new governor to arrive, the witch trials took place and “By the time the new governor, William Phips, arrived in Massachusetts, the jails were already filed with alleged witches” (Life in Salem 1692, par. 2). This proves that the fact that Salem was without a governor for a majority of the witch trials was a contributing factor to the social climate because, without an official authority figure, the trials had no real justice to them.

    If a governor was present during the time of the witch trials, it’s possible that things would have been different in regards to the outcome of deaths due to false accusations. A second contributing factor to the social climate was the split between Salem Town and Salem Village. This led to social disorder due to tension between the two sides. Salem Town was a more elite and wealthy area whereas Salem Village was a lower class farming area. The Village wanted to break away from the Town because “Many of Salem Village farming families believed that Salem Town’s thriving economy made it too individualistic.

    This individualism was opposition to the communal nature practiced by that Puritanism mandated” (Sutter, par. 3). Eventually, a separation occurred under the leadership of Rev. Samuel Parris. Parris began running a sermon at the Salem Village Meetinghouse. Parris raised local taxes at the church to satisfy his needs, which upset many villagers, creating a faction of people against him. This proves that the tension between the Village and the Town contributed to the social climate because since Parris was one of the main instigators of the witch trials, this would lead many people to be biased for or against his opinions regarding the trials.

    Another contributing factor to the social climate was the strict puritan lifestyle. This was a contributing factor because the puritans believed in the devil as much as they believed in God. One who followed god was seen as a witch. Certain things in the puritan lifestyle were deemed as “the devil’s work” and would result in being accused of being a witch. These puritan ways were particularly harsh on the children, as they were expected to follow the same rules the adults. “Any show of emotion, such as excitement, fear, or anger, was discouraged, and disobedience was severely punished.

    Children rarely played, as toys and games were scarce. Puritans saw these activities as sinful distractions” (Life in Salem 1692: Puritan Children, par. 1). Girls, more so than boys, had very few ways of expressing themselves and little was available for them. These statements help in proving the validity of puritan lifestyles contributing to the social climate because without these ground morals, the people would not have thought such normal activities meant someone was a witch. Tituba’s role in society was to be a slave to the family of Rev. Parris.

    Tituba was a foreigner to Salem, as Parris had bought her in Barbados. Slaves had no rights at all in this time period therefore; Tituba’s only job was to care for Parris’s children and house. This situation presented to Tituba contributed to her role in the witch trials because, being a slave didn’t get her much respect in society, therefore people wouldn’t object to her being a witch because she is not much of a respectable person to defend. For example, while Tituba would be caring for Parris’s children, “In the evenings Tituba entertained little Betty and her cousin Abigail Williams by the kitchen fire.

    She played fortune telling games and told them stories of magic and spirits from the Caribbean” (Tituba, par. 4). This proves that Tituba’s role in society affected her role in the witch trials because these trials were based on how others saw you in society. If someone of high social status were to be accused of witchcraft, people would protest. However, if someone of low social status were to be accused, it wouldn’t mean much to the common people. Tituba’s role in the guilty verdict of an accused person was of the accuser.

    Tituba had accused Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne of being witches. Tituba’s confession led more convictions to occur because “Confession is what the judges were looking for, and Tituba’s ‘evidence’ of a conspiracy of witches in Salem Village stimulated the court and the girls to find and convict more people” (Barillari, par. 8). This proves that Tituba played the accuser role in the guilty verdict of an accused person because Tituba confessed to knowing of other witches in Salem Village in order to save her life.

    The ultimate cause of the witch hysteria was more so the strict puritan lifestyle than any other cause due to the strict code by witch people were expected to follow didn’t allow any outward signs of emotion or imagination. Any emotional expressions were seen as the devil’s work in the eyes of the puritans, when in reality it was just a mere form of entertainment. For example, when Betty is sick, Abigail and her friends accuse Tituba as the cause of it because she was caught showing the girls magic tricks.

    Even though the tricks were just in sport, Tituba was still accused of practicing witchcraft and had to lie and put others in danger to save her own life. This gives the girls power to determine whoever they wanted to be a witch, leading to many false accusations. These events prove that the puritan lifestyle was the ultimate cause of the witch hysteria because if the puritans weren’t so strict and so full of belief in the devil, there wouldn’t have been an overreaction to the simple entertainment the girls were having since they had no other way of expressing themselves in any form.

    The Salem Witch Trials of 1692 had a great impact on the lives of people living in Salem at that time. The social climate caused by a lack of government, political tensions, and puritan lifestyle all lead up to the tension and hysteria of the witch trials. The black slave, Tituba, whose role in Salem was to care for the family of Rev. Parris, was accused of a witch because of her knowledge of foreign magic tricks and social status.

    She then falsely confesses to being a witch and confesses to knowing of other witches in the village, among them, Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne. Overall, the main cause of the witch hysteria was the puritan lifestyle because, not only did the puritan lifestyle set very strict boundaries for its followers, but it set a mentality in them that brainwashed them from seeing the reality of why the “fits” and “outburst” of the alleged witches were occurring.

    Works Cited

    Barillari, Alyssa. Salem Witch Trials: Tituba. ” Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities. 2001. Web. 07 Dec. 2010. <http://www2. iath. virginia. edu/salem/people/tituba. html>. “Life In Salem 1692. ” Discoveryeducation. com. Discovery Education. Web. 18 Nov. 2010. <http://school. discoveryeducation. com/schooladventures/salemwitchtrials/life/>. “Life In Salem 1692: Puritan Children. ” Discoveryeducation. com. Discovery Education. Web. 30 Nov. 2010. <http://school. discoveryeducation. om/schooladventures/salemwitchtrials/life/children. html>. 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. <http://www. salemwitchtrials. com/salemwitchcraft. html>. “Tituba. ” Discoveryeducation. com. Discovery Education. Web. 17 Nov. 2010. <http://school. discoveryeducation. com/schooladventures/salemwitchtrials/people/tituba. html>.

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