• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

The Affliction: Physical or Psychological?

Extracts from this document...


The Affliction: Physical or Psychological? Frank Lin, Period 1 They were shameless in their claims. They were ruthless in their allegations. In the spring of 1692, a group of young girls set off a fire of immeasurable proportions in the sleepy town of Salem, Massachusetts, and when the smoke finally cleared more than a year later, twenty-four innocent men and women were left dead. The gentle Mary Parker, the outspoken Martha Corey, the pious Rebecca Nurse - no matter who the victims were, the girls pursued them with a relentless devotion. They mercilessly accused anyone they despised (and later, simply anyone) of witchcraft. In court, they screamed and moaned hysterically as soon as any glimmer of hope emerged for the accused. Their fitful cries sealed the fates of every single one of their victims, often serving as the only evidence that would condemn the innocent to hang. All this, and one cannot help but be confounded by one simple question: what caused the girls to go to such an extent just to see their neighbors die? At the center of the Salem Witchcraft Trials were three strikingly different individuals: Betty Parris, a shy, timorous, and reasonably conscience-guided nine-year-old girl, ...read more.


Soon, other girls in the community wanted to join Tituba's circle. By then, Tituba had already begun reading fortunes, an act that was considered to be sinful by the strict, austere Puritan community. It was not long before the secret s´┐Żances "began to put a strain on nine-year-old Betty Parris" (van der Linde, 32). It is entirely reasonable, therefore, to conclude that Tituba's stories led to the psychological breakdown of Betty Parris, and eventually, the other girls as well. By late winter, Betty and Abigail were both acting extremely strangely. They "suffered convulsions and babbled incoherently...appeared to be bewitched by something" (Rice Jr., 25). Similar symptoms quickly spread to the other members of Tituba's circle. When it became clear that the medical treatments available at the time were of no help to the girls, the residents of Salem turned to a supernatural explanation of the girls' afflictions. Church leaders who visited them declared that "the souls of these youngsters were in terrible danger", fueling the fear that the girls were in the grips of evil (van der Linde, 35). The Puritan community began questioning the girls as to who was afflicting them. ...read more.


Instead, an alternate explanation for what happened to the girls of Salem proposes that a physical illness, and not a psychological one, ailed the girls. Encephalitis was not a well-understood disease during the time of the girl's ailments. However, "the symptoms reported by the afflicted New Englanders and their families in the seventeenth-century strongly resemble the symptoms of encephalitis" (Carlson, 124). The circumstances surrounding the girls' afflictions also strongly resemble what happened during the encephalitis epidemic of the early twentieth-century, in which "most of the afflicted were young women or children, and afflictions appeared in late winter and early spring and receded with the heat of the summer" (Carlson, 125). This, however, leaves one to question whether Tituba and her storytelling had anything to do with the girls' afflictions at all. Perhaps not. However, due to the close proximity of the two incidents, it is easy for history to assume that they are related. It is only after a careful analysis of the events leading up to the girls' bizarre behavior that the conclusion can be formed: the underlying cause of the Salem Witchcraft Trials was not a psychological affliction but a physical one, most likely due to an outbreak of encephalitis. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Arthur Miller section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Arthur Miller essays

  1. The Salem Witch Trial - Brief History and Thoughts as to What Caused Them

    Abigail on the other hand was a bored child looking for some excitement. She reviled in her uncles sermons that mentioned the devil. Grasping onto the agitation Betty was causing her parents by her strange behavior, Abigail began acting out.

  2. Exploring the importance of religion to the community of Salem

    In chapter 4 Danforth realises that the girls were falsely accusing people but he does not want have his authority undermined by acquitting the remaining people because it would mean that he would have to admit that he was wrong not to believe John Proctor and Mary Warren.

  1. Explore the importance of religion to the community of Salem

    If she had known the difference between right and wrong then she would have told the truth from the beginning and none of this would have happened and no one would have died. At one point Abigail also claims to be doing God's work, this is ironic as she is

  2. How Can We Explain The Salem Witchcraft Episode of 1962?

    If one believed that the symptoms of the girls were caused by witchcraft, it would then be necessary to look at who caused this. Suggestions were made that the girls were experimenting in white magic such as fortune telling, and had then become possessed.

  1. 'Whilst we are appalled by Abigail Williams, we are fascinated by her as well'. ...

    the pillow?, and she is now under the ?care? of Parris who simply happens to be self-centred and not even pay attention to his own daughter. Similarly, we can also feel sympathy for her in that despite the deceit presented by the theocracy, her somewhat pure intentions of love are

  2. What do we learn of Salem and three of its inhabitants in the opening ...

    The fact that she was taking part in dance, against the Puritan ideals of lack of self-enjoyment, the text establishes that she is a character that makes up part of the crumbling society and pushing forward the notion of ?old disciplines?[rankling]? over time.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work