The Salem Witch Trials in 1692 and The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
When the word “witch” comes up in people’s minds, they normally picture an old woman with green skin, warts, a pointy hat, and long fingernails who wears black clothes, flies on a broom, and casts harmful spells on others. However, this stereotype is made up by the imaginations of humanity. It all started when religion conflicts began to rise. This was the clash between Christianity and the old religion. Christian leaders began asserting that witches were devil worshippers and savages. In the year 1233, Pope Gregory IX instituted the Roman Catholic tribunal, known as the Inquisition, in an attempt to suppress heresy. At the request of Pope John XXII in 1320, the church officially declared witchcraft and the old religion of the Pagans as a heretical movement and a "hostile threat" to Christianity. Witches had now become heretics and the persecution against all Pagans spread like wildfire throughout Europe. Therefore, the persecutions, murders, and the torture of innocent people who are claimed as “witches” began (“How Did it Start?”). This history and the idea of witches lead to the Salem Witch Trials in 1692 and Katherine Howe’s motivation to write her novel, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, which is based on the Salem Witch Trials.
Katherine Howe was born in Huston, Texas and she holds degrees in Art History and Philosophy from Columbia and in American and New England Studies from Boston University. She is a descendant of Elizabeth Proctor, who survived the Salem Witch Trials, and Elizabeth Howe, who did not. She first learned about her ancestors when her aunt was doing some family research. Due to this discovery, Howe became more interested in this specific time period and she began to wonder how life would be like living as a Puritan in the 1600’s. Her book, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, which is about the Salem Witch Trials, debuted at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list and has been translated into more than 20 languages. Howe moved to Marblehead from Cambridge in summer of 2005 with her husband and she was scheduled to take her Ph.D. qualifying exams that November. So, while trying to relax from her studies, Howe began to think how vastly the popular account of the witch trials differs from the historical understanding of them. As she was walking in the woods, she began to think: “What if magical were real, but not in the fairy-tale way that we now imagine it?” (Howe “Question and Answer”). So, as Howe was trying to imagine what magic would have looked like to the colonists of Salem, she was inspired to write her novel. Howe’s writing style is very attractive to readers. The vocabulary is not very difficult and she writes in a way that keeps the reader wanting to read more. As the reader explores the novel, they can feel the emotions that the characters are feeling and so they are able to relate to them. Also, she writes her flashbacks to the late seventeenth century in the diction that they would have spoken in. This catches the reader’s attention and it shows her dedication and research for this novel.
In the 17th century, the church was the cornerstone of life in New England. Most people in Massachusetts were Puritans-colonists who had left England seeking religious tolerance. The Puritan lifestyle was restrained and rigid and it was against the law not to attend church. Since the Puritans were expected to live by this strict moral code, they believed that all sins-from sleeping in church to stealing food-should be punished. They believed that God would punish sinful behavior. When a neighbor would suffer misfortune, such as a sick child or a failed crop, the Puritans saw it as God’s will and did not help. In addition, the Puritans believed that that Devil was as real as God. Everyone was faced with the struggle between the powers of good and evil, but Satan would select the weakest individuals-women, children, and the...
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