Thursday, September 22, 2011

How has the Power in Salem Shifted at the End of Act 1?

Salem, Massachusetts was exceptionally different during its early history. In the late 1600s, the social structure was not at all similar to what it is today. Instead of a town led by a Mayor and municipal officials, clergymen were in charge of Salem. This was mostly due to the fact that all towns in the American colonies followed this leadership structure. However, because of the large Puritanical population, Salem’s clergy controlled the city even more rigidly. In the time of the Salem witch trials, the leader of the city was Reverend Samuel Parris.  Reverend Parris preached regularly about his concern of witchcraft and servants of the Devil. Samuel Parris had low self-esteem and this made him easily influenced by others.

Reverend Parris witnessed his daughter and her peers behaving in extremely non-puritanical ways. This led him to conclude that they were bewitched. Reverend Parris did not know who was bewitching the girls. His niece, out of fear of punishment, claimed that his house slave, Tituba, was the one bewitching the girls.  Tituba was most likely targeted by the Reverend’s niece because of her low status and unconventional behaviors. Tituba’s unconventional behavior was influenced greatly by her Barbados ancestry and cultural identity. When confronted about being a witch, Tituba spoke of being bewitched herself by other community members. As soon as Tituba confessed, one of the girls coincidentally woke up from her coma. This made Reverend Parris more convinced that witchcraft was being practiced in Salem. After seeing how Tituba deflected the blame onto others in the community, the girls decided to follow suit.  At this moment, the power shifted from Reverend Parris to the witchcraft accusers.

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