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From a theoretical or intellectual historian's point of view, Salem shows the danger of homogeneous social setting committed to a singular notion of the good. The impact of Salem might have been negligent in terms of pure history. Yet, in tracing the development of American consciousness and how one understands what it means to be "American," Salem plays a significant function. The notion of a social and political climate dominated by fear and silence, as opposed to vocal advocacy and the spirit of dissent can only lead to bad things. America, consciously or not, used the moment of Salem to define itself as standing against these values. When America has reverted back to Salem form, "bad things" have not been far off the pace, and a corrective measure has taken place afterwards to ensure that a spirit of free discourse, heterogeneity, and individual dissent remains as part of the blueprint of American identity.
In my opinion, the witch trials did not have any serious effect on American society as a whole. This is largely because there was no way for any information about the witch trials to spread throughout American society. The various towns and colonies back then were so isolated from one another that things like that would not have had much of an impact outside of their immediate area.
Another reson I do not think they had much impact was that people would not have thought that they were strange. People in lots of places believed in witches and such so it's not like they would have looked at the trials and been surprised.
Even the eNotes entry on the impact of the witch trials does not give any impact outside of the fact that the town of Salem stopped treating witchcraft as a crime after that.
I agree that the Salem Witch Trials did not have a large effect on American society. The Salem Witch Trials ended almost as soon as they begun. People attribute many causes to the reason why the Salem Witch Trials eve started. These reasons range all the way from economic hardship to teenage boredom.
As far as having an impact on American society today I would say that it has taught us a bit about intolerance and the views that people had during that time period (1692). Puritan views were very eccentric and they had to attribute disasters and hardships to something.
As years passed, apologies were offered, and restitution was made to the victims' families. Historians and sociologists have examined this most complex episode in our history so that we may understand the issues of that time and apply our understanding to our own society. The parallels between the Salem witch trials and more modern examples of "witch hunting" like the McCarthy hearings of the 1950's, are remarkable.
Even though now the ordeal of the Salem Witch Trials seems sensational, back in that time the trials had a negligible effect on society. It was somewhat of an isolated incident albeit an important one. For the most part, people lived in such abject isolation that an effect on the masses was not achieved.
Many people were skeptic about the girl's accusations. They exhibited odd behavior but who are we to say that perhaps they were suffering from any neurological illness that mimics that behavior.
Nevertheless, the incident and historical saga of the Salem Witch Trials had minimal effect on the society back in that day. Geographic isolation took its toll.
The witchcraft craze has its origins in Europe. The Salem witch trials were just an extension of that. The Salem witch trials are also an example of how people can go overboard with anything. From what I gather from the story, it was nothing more than a couple of local teenage girls with nothing better to do than to cause mischief. I do believe that it snowballed and they could not get out of it. Which is the very reason people should watch what they do and say.
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