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Was Salem a big city, with street lights, etc? Describe Salem (The Crucible). 

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A_wash01 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 17, 2013 at 6:44 PM via web

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Was Salem a big city, with street lights, etc? Describe Salem (The Crucible). 

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 17, 2013 at 7:37 PM (Answer #1)

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The play is set in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. Street lights were supposedly not introduced to the United States until the time of Ben Franklin, who was born in 1706. So, there were no street lights to speak of sans maybe some torches and/or lit posts.

Today, Salem is a small to medium sized city in terms of population with about 40,000 people. In 1692, it was of course much smaller so it could hardly be called a big city. Back then, and even from our perspective today, the Salem of 1692 would be deemed a town or village. Moreover, in the overture, it is described as something almost approaching a village. In other words, it was quite small. This is indicated in the exposition (overture) at the start of Act One, with the description of Parris' house: 

His house stood in the "town"--but we today would hardly call it a village. 

Salem had been established hardly forty years before. To the European world the whole province was a barbaric frontier inhabited by a sect of fanatics who, nevertheless, were shipping out products of slowly increasing quantity and value. 

In short, it was a very small village that was growing slowly. In reading the play, it seems to be so small that most everyone knows everyone else. And given the time period in which the play (and the historical Salem Witch Trials) was set, it would be very primitive by today's standards: candles rather than electric light, dirt roads/paths, and lots of open expanses and forests on all sides of the village. 

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