Salem Witch Trials: A Confluence of Motives

Essay by werflaHigh School, 10th gradeB, September 2013

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The Salem Witch Trials were a bizarre and horrific set of events that ended with the hanging of 19 innocents, a man dead from 'questioning', several dead in jail and nearly 200 people, overall, accused of "practicing the Devil's magic". The Trials occurred in Salem Village (which is now called Danvers) in the year 1692. The Salem Witch Trials are an accurate representation of how a confluence of motives and context create a legend of injustice, corruption and a shameful tale of religion gone askew.

In January 1692, eleven year old Abigail Williams and nine year old Elizabeth Parris begin having fits, including violent contortions and uncontrollable outburst of screaming. A local doctor, William Griggs, diagnoses witchcraft - a crime punishable by death in 17th Century Massachusetts. The girls accuse three women of bewitching them: the Parris' slave Tituba, homeless beggar Sarah Good and the poor, elderly Sarah Osborne. Other girls and even women including nineteen year old Ann Putnam Jr, Mercy Lewis and Mary Walcott then begin exhibiting the same symptoms. Governor William Phipps of Salem Town later declares an endemic of witches in Salem.

The question people centuries in the future ask themselves is how a whole town and village could have been so easily taken by the young girls claims of witchcraft being practiced on them. Surely the rational mind could have seen the slippery slope the trials were heading in and called for an end to the hysteria and injustice before any, or more lives were lost.

However, what one must understand about the witch trials in Salem village is that there were a number of factors and important events that culminated in what is widely regarded as one of the most bizarre example of mass hysteria and paranoia. A history of Witch-hunts, strict religious codes,