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The obvious conflicts are those regarding witchcraft and good vs. evil with regard to their government and religion.
The less obvious conflicts, but certainly not the lesser conflicts, involve the WHY people were accused of being witches. The greedy and vengeful people of the town used this scare to get rid of people they had been jealous of or angry with well before the whole "witches" thing came around.
Take the Putnams, for instance. Many of the men were accused of witchcraft by Ruth Putnam and the other girls because Mr. Putnam is a greedy landowner who wants more land. By getting rid of those who stand in his way, he can easily waltz in and get what he wants.
Mrs. Putnam is no better. Of all the children she has given birth to, only Ruth has survived. She is bitterly jealous of Rebecca Nurse who has so many children and grandchildren...not one of them has died. And bam! Goody Nurse is suddenly accused of witchcraft.
Elizabeth Proctor is accused because Abigail Williams wants John Proctor for herself. Not only is Abigail jealous of what Elizabeth has, but she is angry with Elizabeth for firing her and embarrassing her in the community.
Don't forget internal conflicts as well. Mary Warren suffers horribly between telling what she knows is the truth and fitting in with the other girls in the town. She buckles under the peer pressure.
John suffers from selling his name and living or dying with honor.
Well, lets start your discussion with Abigail. By all rights a destructive person to begin with, she has limited her actions to illegal dancing and adultery. However, when she is caught dancing and finds herself deep in a conflict with her uncle, Abigail turns to the worst. She bullies the girls: "And mark this. Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you." She falsely accuses women in town. She threatens John Proctor and Elizabeth: "I am but God's finger, John. If he would condemn Elizabeth, she will be condemned." This is certainly the worst in Abigail.
Additionally, the community succumbs to their worst behaviors. Out of fear for their own lives, or ambition for what they think they can get, they turn on each other. Abigail turns on Mary Warren when Mary tries to confess the truth. Putnam turns on Giles Corey in hopes of gaining Corey's land.
A modern day example of this type of behavior would be the riots that took place in California in 1992. When the police officers were acquitted of having used excessive force on suspect Rodney King, the conflict created an outcry in the community. Many African-Americans attacked both people and property in their anger, showing their "worst" sides.
The conflicts in Salem that gave rise to the witch trials were particularly destructive because of the pressures of the Puritan lifestyle. Additionally, the community in Massachusetts was also dealing with the "wonders of the invisible world" or anything that they did not understand about their environment.
Without science to understand weather, or knowledge of human or animal diseases, the Puritans attributed everything that happened in their lives to the will of God. And, when times got hard, and some people did better than others, they surrendered themelves to fear and suspicion.
The conflicts that shaped the accusation of individuals as witches came particularly from events that were misunderstood. Such as: sudden deaths of livestock, illnesses in children, infant mortality, crop failures, and the heartbreaking sorrow that accompanies hardship and sacrifice.
By the time the locals started pointing at each other for being witches, their was an under-toe of bitterness tinged with envy of those who prospered.
In the case of the Salem witch trials, conflicts, did in fact bring out the worst in people.
However, as a general rule, conflicts are a natural part of life in any family, society or community. It is not so much the conflict that is the instigator of destruction, but the chosen resolution that can either settle the dispute peacefully or lead to the harming of another out of malice or revenge.
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