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Thomas Putnam had some issues that made him a bitter man. He aspired for wealth, power and authority over the Salem community. He made efforts towards his aspirations, but he failed in his numerous attempts. The disappointment and frustration made him unhappy with some people in the community because they stood in the way of his goals and objectives.
His wife’s brother-in-law was turned down as minister of Salem despite his qualifications in unclear circumstances. His candidate was opposed by a section of the Salem community.
Mr. Putnam was also against his father’s will, which entitled his step-brother to a larger share of the estate left behind. He tried to challenge the will, but his attempts failed.
He was also engaged in numerous land related confrontations with his neighbors because of land boundaries. Putnam's overall behavior suggests that he was bitter because he did not get his way.
In this play Putnam is presented as being a very bitter, vindictive and malicious character because of how he feels he has not been able to get his own way in the past. As Miller writes in the supplementary information he gives throughout Act I that gives more detailed notes about the characters and their history, Putnam is bitter because firstly he was not able to get his wife's brother-in-law in to the post of minister of Salem. Secondly, he is bitter because he unsuccessfully challenged his father's will:
Another reason to believe him a deeply embittered man was his attempt to break his father's will, which left a disproportionate amount to a stepbrother. As with every other public cause in which he tried to force his way, he failed in this.
Thomas Putnam is thus presented as being a very embittered man because of the power and respect he feels he commands, but his failure to make happen what he wants to happen in society around him.
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