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

What is there about the society of Salem which allowed the girls’ stories to be believed?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

What is there about the society of Salem which allowed the girls' stories to be believed? In a small Puritan town called Salem in 1692, a group of young girls were discovered dancing and supposedly 'conjuring spirits' in the woods, something that was strictly forbidden by Puritan law. Ironically the girls avoided punishment by accusing others of the very things of which they were guilty. This led to a cycle of distrust, accusation, arrest and conviction in the town. The girls were totally believed and even praised throughout the witch trials. No one thought it could be possible that they were lying. Hence, by the end of 1692, the Salem court had convicted and executed nineteen men and women for practising witchcraft. But what was it that led the girls' stories to be believed? The Massachusetts Bay colony was founded by a group of Puritan settlers who arrived from England in 1630. They had been persecuted in England under the rule of James 1 and after his rule they left to create a 'New Jerusalem' in America. In this settlement, there was only one religion, the Protestant one. ...read more.

Middle

When the people could not find any reason for an illness i.e. crops failing or children dying at birth, they were told 'to look to unnatural things for the cause of it' as was the case with Betty's illness . It is easy to see how in a society with so few scientific answers, its members might attribute such events to the 'devils work'. The Puritans narrow-mindedness is also apparent when Martha Corey was arrested on the allegation of 'reading strange books' as they thought reading books other than the bible as 'vain enjoyment' Yet not everyone in Salem was uneducated; Reverend Hale for one whose 'books were weighted with authority' was regarded as a prominent educated figure. He was the minister of Beverley and a self-proclaimed expert when it came to 'finding signs of the Devil', but he too was fooled . Although he was the first to realise that the girls were nothing more than frauds, he did not actually quit the court until John Proctor was taken into custody. Let us now take into consideration another 'educated' man , namely Deputy Governor Danforth - a supposedly God-fearing man who was sent to restore 'purity' to the town. ...read more.

Conclusion

Social prejudice however was not just limited to the uneducated members of Salem, but was also present in the more learned and 'good' people. For example, Reverend Hale did not actually start to doubt the girls evidence until 'respected farmer's wives' were being accused. Similarly, when Goody Osburn and Goody Good 'half witted, drunk and slept in ditches' were being accused, very few people in the town were concerned. It was only when Goody Nurse and Goody Proctor were named that Hale and other town folk questioned the integrity of the girls' testimonies. In conclusion, one can assert that there are many causes which contributed to the society of Salem believing the girls. The main cause however was the people's lack of education, as it created a superstitious, regressed and ignorant society. Ironically, although the Puritans tried so hard to preserve a 'pure' society, they ended up making their one worse by executing innocent people within it. No one was educated enough to realise the possible consequences but the townsfolk reassured themselves by falsely believing that what they were doing was right and that they would be rewarded for it. ?? ?? ?? ?? Zahra Ridha Social and Historical Influences and Cultural Context GCSE English Literature Coursework ___________________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________ Page 1 ...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. Everyone has heard of the Salem witch trials, but what were they? Why did ...

    After one was questioned they were put through a thorough physical examination. An accused witch would have to strip of all clothes until she was naked in the courtroom and a doctor examined her. A doctor would search a body until she found a telltale sign of being a witch.

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

    to Salem, tried and hung after being identified as a witch by the Putmans. However records suggest that he was a good, honest man, who acted selflessly, willingly giving back 175 of the 200 acres of land, he received for his services, and was also described warmly3, only having gone

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

    The only books in households were of religious theme. Most girls did not know how to read, because of few schools, and had nothing at all to fill their imaginations. The lives of children were filled with anxiety and fear. (Kallen 19) Adults, as well as children, had to repress their feelings of joy, anger, rebellion, etc.

  2. What is it about the society of Salem that allows the girls' stories to ...

    The believers who set up the communities believed in absolute Christianity, and abolished and shunned anything that they believed was anti-Christian. The community of Salem feared anything beyond their own safe boundaries, so when the girls were discovered to have been dancing in the woods, that would have shocked on two accounts.

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

    Throughout the whole play there are countless references to the Bible whether it be through quotations or comparisons showing that the people of Salem really knew their religion thoroughly. The references to the Bible again show how religion was the life of people in Salem.

  2. How does Arthur Miller show that Salem society has the capacity for what started ...

    I have six hundred acres, and timber in addition." This statement may seem rather pointless to a 21st century audience, however it must be remembered that in the 17th century such a statement, was important, because ownership of land would have represented power, wealth and respect. By contrast, an audience could conclude that a loss of land would result in a loss of reputation, position or power.

  1. The Reverend John Hale embodies the growing awareness of the illegality and immorality of ...

    When Reverend John Hale enters the play he walks in with great power and quickly claims authority. He also walks in with respect and great value from the Salem community as they believe that he will have the answers to their problems.

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

    As she constructs her lies and excuses for Elizabeth Proctor kicking her out of their house she suggests that ?they want slaves?, and that she ?will not black (her) face for any of them?, and will not willingly accept her position in society.

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