How are Betty and Ruth's symptoms similar in The Crucible?

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pirateteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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In Act I when the Putnam's visit Reverend Parris and Betty we learn that their daughter, Ruth, is also sick.  From their descriptions we learn that both of them are lying in bed and will not wake up. Ruth reports to Parris and the crowd gathered in his house that Ruth, like Betty, only lies in bed and cannot get up or move at all.  However, unlike Betty, her eyes are open.

She ails as she must—she never waked this morning but her eyes open and she walks, and hears naught, sees naught, and cannot eat. Her soul is taken, surely

Unlike Parris, Ann Putnam is not willing to suggest that their daughters are sick.  Instead, she and her husband truly believe that young Ruth has been bewitched by the devil.  In fact, Thomas Putnam seems quite relieved that Parris has sent to Beverly for Reverend Hale.  In the Putnam's mind there is nothing that Dr. Griggs can do.  Only a minister can break the witches spell that is hurting their daughters.

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favoritethings | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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Although Ruth Putnam's eyes are open and Betty Parris's are closed, Mrs. Putnam describes Ruth as ailing "as she must -- [Ruth] never waked this morning, but her eyes open and she walks, and hears naught, sees naught, and cannot eat."  Therefore, we learn that Ruth and Betty seem to be having some similar symptoms: though Ruth's eyes are open and Betty's are not, both seem to be totally insensible -- unable to see or hear or respond to what is going on around them. 

Nothing seems to be physically wrong with either of the girls; they do not have fevers or rashes or anything that could be identified as a symptom of a medical ailment.  It seems spiritual somehow.  Mrs. Putnam says of Ruth, "I'd not call it sick; the Devil's touch is heavier than sick [....].  Her soul is taken, surely."  Parris has had a similar concern about his daughter, too.  He caught the girls dancing in the forest the night before and now he fears that "[his] ministry's at stake, [his] ministry and perhaps [Betty's] life."  Both girls seem to be slipping away and their parents feel powerless to stop it.

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