Salem Possessed is a novel that explores the social, economic, political, and geographical divisions within the Salem Village community. It is written as an attempt to understand the accusations of witchcraft in 1692. It is believed that the village of Salem is split into two factions: one interested in gaining more of a society based upon political independence and led by the Putnam family, and the other, interested in the mercantile and political life of the town being led by the Porter family. Boyer and Nissenbaum's in- depth and imaginative look at past records revealing the common life in the colonial New England lifestyle provides a model society to look at to fully understand the witchcraft accusations as part of a larger pattern of common conflict. In order to write the novel Boyer and Nissenbaum looked at legal records, like the minister's book, the village record book, and tax records and found a pattern of contentious behavior which may have led to the witchcraft accusations in 1692. They showed how there were two distinct fractions, the Putnams and the Porters. The bitter and contentious disputes between the two factions within the village both demonstrate a pattern of communal conflict, which transcended the events of 1692. In the novel most of the accused "witches" were apart of the Porter faction because the villagers who stood with the Putnams supported Paris and the petition for an independent church for the village. These villagers show up as having complaints of witchcraft indictments thus accusing most the supporters of the Porters of practicing witchcraft. This novel examines the history and social life of Salem to figure out what was the cause of the events that occurred there. Boyer and Nissenbaum attempted to put the accusations into different categories to complete the understanding of the Salem witch trials.
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