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What is the dispute between John Proctor and Thomas Putnam in The Crucible's first act?

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meli2 | College Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 11, 2007 at 5:21 PM via web

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What is the dispute between John Proctor and Thomas Putnam in The Crucible's first act?

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rowens | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted May 11, 2007 at 11:28 PM (Answer #1)

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The dispute is over land. Putnum seems to have this quarrel with a number of people. He claims that a portion of several people's property belongs to him, and that it was willed to him.

One of these land disputes is between Putnam and Proctor. Proctor has a section of woods that Putnum believes belongs to him. Putnum accuses Proctor of stealing his lumber, but Giles Cory insists that Putnum's grandfather willed land that was not his to leave and that he tried to will away Cory's land as well, but knew he couldn't get away with it.
Putnum has disputes over land and boundaries with all of his neighbors. It is his land-lust, according to Cory, that prompts him to instruct his daughter to cry witch against his neighbor, Mr. Jacobs, knowing that the Jacobs land will be forfeit and put up for auction as a result.

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mlsldy3 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted November 20, 2014 at 4:40 PM (Answer #2)

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In the first Act of The Crucible, we are told a little about John Proctor and Putnam. This will set up the characters for the rest of the play. 

Thomas Putnam was the oldest son of the richest man in the village. He is deeply interested in parish affairs. He is very vindictive and this was shown long before the claims of witchcraft. He thinks that land is very important and shows how rich a man is, this has always been his thinking.

John Proctor was a farmer in his mid thirties. He has a sharp and biting way with hypocrites. He is a steady man, yet we see when Abigail is with him, that he hides a dark secret.

The dispute starts over Proctor going to harvest some lumber. He owns a tract of land, that he bought from Francis Nurse. Putnam claims the tract is really his and that his grandfather left it to him in his will. 

Putnam is man who is very powerful. He is used to using any means he can to get what he wants. He will throw accusations around, just to prove how righteous he is. He accuses Proctor of not coming to church every week. Proctor doesn't dispute this, saying that he is tired of hearing hell and damnation and wants to hear more about God in the sermons. These two men will come to blows later in the play, and this first encounter with them, sets us up for a battle. 


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