As a society what have we learned from the Salem Witch Trials?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What has American society learned from the Salem witch trials of 1692? Answering this question is problematic as it is doubtful that history is well understood by most Americans. And without an understanding of the past, it is not likely that history plays a key role in how society shapes...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

What has American society learned from the Salem witch trials of 1692? Answering this question is problematic as it is doubtful that history is well understood by most Americans. And without an understanding of the past, it is not likely that history plays a key role in how society shapes the present-day. Nevertheless, intellectuals and legal procedures have been influenced by the events that took place in Salem.

Although the Salem witch trials were a tragedy, they were much less important than the US Civil War (1861–1865). A recent report from the Southern Poverty Law Center states that the majority of high school students do not know that slavery was the main cause of the war. Therefore, we can extrapolate that the public is not knowledgeable about what happened in Salem and the supposed lessons American society learned from it.

On the other hand, intellectuals have understood what happened in Salem and its ramifications for modern-day society. For instance, Arthur Miller's play, The Crucible (1953), was based on Salem. He compared the trials to the persecution of supposed Communists in mid-twentieth century America.

Legal scholars also learned lessons from Salem. For example, the presumption of innocence and the right to legal representation are now central precepts of American jurisprudence.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team