Notes about the Salem era

  • Attitude to children – innocent empty vessels, young adults; misguided never capable of evil having not learned it yet.
  • No reading of novels; self-denial; no vain pursuits; their time was bounded by their duties to the church and to God.
  • Very harsh life; Sundays only day off and expected to go to church; attendance record kept. Services of unlimited length.
  • Power of the church was absolute and unquestioned; inquisitions in England and Europe had left legacy of fear despite them having fled to America.
  • Small windowed houses as climate very harsh.
  • Indian threat and the forest – dwindling now, but past massacres (Abigail’s parents) envoys of the devil because of the unknownness and its vastness.
  • Land lust
  • Hidden feelings; petty jealousies.

Motivations of characters:

Putnam: Parris not his choice of minister, his brother-in-law was; he is rich and powerful in land terms but not popular and often obstructed.

Mrs Putnam: Has buried 7 babies and never forgotten that Goody Nurse has many children and grandchildren and not lost one.

Abigail: Rejection by Proctor; fury at Elizabeth’s treatment of her; and a sudden lust for power and control!

Giles: A querulous sort; ‘been in court 33 time’; reasonably recently married and not being a reader himself is suspicious of his wife’s reading; likes to be the centre of attention; easily offended, deaf but naïve, misguided.

Parris: Knows he is unpopular; rather worldly (see his early moan about not getting paid enough and Proctor’s complaint that Parris wants the deed to his house and golden candlesticks); becomes a willing accomplice of Abigail’s lust for vengeance as he sees his enemies fall; later realises that the villagers still won’t like or trust him especially as people they really respected refuse to confess. Hence John and Rebecca’s confessions would be his vindication if he could get them.

Proctor: Despises Parris as a greedy ungodly man; regrets his lust for Abigail but still has feelings for her as seen in his reluctance to go early on to Salem and denounce her. In the end he has to admit his lechery to counter her ‘goodness’ and even that doesn’t work.

Hathorne: Arrogant like John Hale in his confidence in his justice and righteousness. Has ambitions. Has been ’32 year at the bar.’ Ends up with too much invested in the trials and deaths to be able to tackle Abigail. Loses everything when the verdicts are over turned later.

 


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