In the beginning of "The Crucible," how have the Puritains failed to learn from the persecution of their ancestors?
The Puritans, the 1621 group on the Mayflower, came to America in search of religious freedom, to worship and raise their families without the outside influences of either English society or Dutch, where they fled first.
By the time the witch trials occur some 71 years later, these descendants have forgotten that they themselves had been persecuted by the English because they wanted to purify their Protestant religion, hence, Puritan.
How easy it is for intolerance, pride, envy and all the dark passions, to emerge in this later Puritan society. They have forgotten, because their lives in their new land has been very harsh and cruel.
The Puritans by the time of the witch trials have endured many hardships, including death from unknown diseases, crop failures, livestock death, attacks from Indians who hide in the forest and attacks from Pirates who come from the sea. They have struggled to survive in harsh winters, and lean times.
They needed someone to blame for all their troubles, the devil is of course always the likely candidate, but this time, the devil, in the person of their neighbors was the likely choice.
The community, as a whole, is suffering from the suppressed desires and needs that Puritanism does not allow. Puritan life is very bare, prayer, work, worship. All the pent up passions explode in this harsh episode of human cruelty that put 20 innocent people to death, 19 by hanging and 1 by being pressed to death.