What Caused the Salem Witch Trial Hysteria?
1692 was a year packed with excitement and terror for the citizens of Salem, Massachusetts. Belief and accusations of people being witches/warlocks under the possession of the Devil swept across the town and wreaked havoc among its settlers. There are many possible ways to justify this madness. However, the 3 most valid and evidential reasons are: attention-seeking, jealousy (of one another and the amount of land owned), and lack of acceptance towards each other’s physical flaws and behaviors.
Attention-seeking is bound to become an issue in a town such as Salem, merely due to the daily, mundane activities one must pursue in order to live properly. Document G states, “It was perhaps their original design to gratify a love of notoriety or of mischief by creating… excitement in their neighborhood.” This quote is relating to the behaviors that people were displaying which made them a suspect. Document H revolves around the idea that maybe these young girls were acting out and faking the “convulsive attacks” that were believed to be evidence in order to give the public what they expected, or wanted. These young girls created an issue much larger than they’d planned to. They most likely were just trying to make themselves known and didn’t understand the impact that their actions would have on the vulnerable minds of their town.
Although attention-seeking seems to play the most obvious role in the hysteria, jealousy was also a major contributor. Land ownership was a big deal in this time period (15th century), and the division between the farmers’ and the residents’ amount of property became a cause for vengeance (Document J). Documents K & L are perfect examples of people feeling the need for revenge. The Putnams must have believed that Rebecca Nurse did them terribly wrong when her family took over some of their land, so (as one of the wealthiest families in Salem); they used their word against hers by...
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