In Act 1 of The Crucible, why did Mrs. Putnam contact Tituba?

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There is a mystical quality about Tituba for a variety of reasons. She is from Barbados, and the people of Salem believe that the slave island culture is rooted in a lot of spiritual mysticism. Parris has a good quote that shows audiences that her Christian spirituality is somewhat suspect.

I saw Tituba waving her arms over the fire when I came on you. Why was she doing that? And I heard a screeching and gibberish coming from her mouth. She were swaying like a dumb beast over that fire!

Mrs. Putnam believes that Tituba is the only person in the town that can give her the information that she seeks. Mrs. Putman tells audiences that seven of her children have died. Ruth is now sick, and it looks like she might die too. Mrs. Putnam genuinely believes that her children have been murdered, and she wants to find out who the murderer is. She believes that only her dead children can identify the culprit, so Mrs. Putnam contacts Tituba and asks her to contact her dead children using the Barbados mystical faith.

Mrs. Putnam: And so I thought to send her to your Tituba—

Parris: To Tituba! What may Tituba—?

Mrs. Putnam: Tituba knows how to speak to the dead, Mr. Parris.

Parris: Goody Ann, it is a formidable sin to conjure up the dead!

Mrs. Putnam: I take it on my soul, but who else may surely tell us what person murdered my babies?

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Mrs. Putnam shares the widespread prejudice that because Tituba is black, she has some kind of direct access to the forces of darkness. That being the case, Mrs. Putnam believes that Tituba is just the kind of person she needs to help her summon up the spirits of her dead children in order to find out how they died.

This unfortunate episode illustrates Mrs. Putnam's fraught psychological state. Having lost so many children in infancy, she's become utterly deranged, and it is this derangement that will in due course set the Salem witch-craze in motion, as Mrs. Putnam starts looking for scapegoats for the tragic loss of her infant children. The irony of course is that Mrs. Putnam, who puts the finger on Goody Nurse for being a witch, is herself guilty of messing around with the forces of darkness.

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In act one, the Putnams visit Parris's home in order to discuss the rumors involving witchcraft throughout the community and witness Betty's condition. During a conversation between Reverend Parris and Mrs. Putnam, she explains to him that she sent her daughter to Tituba, who can communicate with the dead. Mrs. Putnam has lost seven children and sent Ruth to Tituba in order to conjure their spirits. Tituba, who is from Barbados, attempts to speak with Mrs. Putnam's dead children in hopes of learning how and why they were murdered. This news shocks Reverend Parris and confirms that some type of sorcery was practiced that night in the forest. Mrs. Putnam also believes that Ruth was close to "darkness," which explains why she is incapacitated. Tituba then becomes the first person accused of witchcraft in the play.

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This part of the play comes in Act I just after the Reverend Hale has arrived in Salem to offer his expertise to sort out what has been happening. When Mrs. Putnam accuses Tituba of being able to conjure, she needs to offer some form of proof to back up her claim. When she does so, it is proof that she herself has contacted Tituba to ask her to perform a spell so that she can know who killed her seven babies who all died. Note what she confesses to:

I sent my child--she should learn from Tituba who murdered her sisters.

Rebecca Nurse responds in horror to this, as what Mrs. Putnam did was to send her daughter to commune with the dead spirits of her sisters, who all died in childbirth. Mrs. Putnam therefore contacted Tituba before in order to try and learn why her daughters all died.

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