What is the function of Rebecca Nurse in "The Crucible"?

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Rebecca Nurse, like John Proctor, is there to stand for the voice of reason.  She is older, respected, and has served as a midwife for many years.  She is logical, and has a no nonsense way about her.  She and John are among the first to blow off the idea of witchcraft among the girls.  She is called in to see Betty and Ruth, and her opinion is that when the girls are ready, they will wake up.  There is nothing wrong with them physically.  She has much experience with this as she, herself, has many children and grandchildren.  None of her children or grandchildren have ever died in birth or in early childhood which is unusual during the Puritan times.  This is the reason why she is targeted as a witch...Mrs. Putnam's babies have all died except for Ruth.  She accuses Rebecca Nurse of being a witch and killing her children simply because Mrs. Putnam is grief-stricken and jealous of Mrs. Nurse's fortunate state.

The fact that respected and well-thought-of members in the community of Salem are hanged like Rebecca Nurse, John Proctor, and others underlines the effects of social hysteria and fear.  In any other situation, those people would have been the ones to calm the masses...not hanged by the very people who looked to them for guidance.


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