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In his introductory sketch of the play's historical background, Miller says that the Puritans were much more of a cohesive force than the settlers in Jamestown, who were motivated by commercial gain but did not really band together as a community. Miller notes that 'Virginia destroyed them', but with the Puritans it was different:
Massachusetts tried to kill off the Puritans, but they combined; they set up a communal society which, in the beginning, was little more than an armed camp with an autocratic and very devoted leadership.
The Puritans, therefore, formed a proper community, which enabled them to endure, whereas the Jamestown settlers did not.
However the Puritan society was harsh, bound by strict moral and religious rules. Miller acknowledges that this ruthless, self-denying spirit was necessary to some extent to survive in the wilderness, but it had unfortunate consequences in the longer term, as the authorities would always come down hard on anyone who dared to flout the community's rules. This is illustrated in the whole witchcraft episode (certainly as Miller sees it) which begins in the first instance when Abigail and the other girls try to deflect blame onto others from their own misdemeanours.
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