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The people of Salem were very susceptible to conflict. They were a group of people who had endured great hardship. They arrived in the new world in search of religious freedom. However, they did not permit or tolerate other belief systems other than their own. They were bent on remaining as a community with one identity.
These people endured harsh, cold winters, invasions by Indians and Pirates, disease, crop failure, drought and unexplainable death. They were looking for someone to blame. They believed that the devil walked in the town of Salem.
By the time of the witch trials, individual freedom was beginning to sprout in the community, think John Proctor. And as a result of this, in conjunction with old rivalries and conflicts with neighbors and people suppressing all basic human desires, which were forbidden by the Puritans, the community was ripe for an outburst of emotion, especially of the negative kind.
In the witch trials in Salem, neighbors settled old scores with fellow neighbors. They took the opportunity to publicly acclaim their own sinfulness in an environment that praised the confessor as holy and inspired.
My opinion on this is that Miller was attempting to address the idea of mass hysteria and the fear that comes from irrational behavior. Although the play is set in Salem during the Puritan era and the witch trials are the focus, he is paralleling it with the "witch hunt" of the 1960's in America when people were attempting to ferret out the communists among us. As people in Salem were unjustly accused of being witches, people in America--particularly actors and actresses in Hollywood--were being accused of communistic background and involvement.
So, are people in Salem particularly vulnerable to conflict? Probably not any more than people anywhere else in the world. However, their religion and the way it was set up didn't leave much wiggle room for individuality or even for human error. Once accused, the court went on with proceeding against the accused, and even after innocence was evident there was no turning back.
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