In The Crucible, what does the Salemites’ willingness to support the girls' accusations reveal about Salem’s people? What about its leaders?
The Salem villagers' willingness to believe the girls' accusations shows how eager some of them are to find a scapegoat for their problems. For example, Mrs. Putnam is desperate to find a reason for the deaths of seven of her eight children; all seven died within a day of their births despite their appearance of health. She believes that it cannot be the work of God, as she does not feel she deserves such a punishment, and so she assumes that it must be the work of the devil. Thus, she comes to suspect that her midwives are witches. Mrs. Putnam needs there to be a reason, needs there to be someone to blame for her pain; thus, when Tituba accuses one of the women who served as midwife to her, it is all too easy to believe it because she so badly wants to believe. Many of the villagers' will not look to themselves or to God for answers because they want something concrete, and the accusations give them someone tangible to blame. People like to figure out who to blame, and so the accusations are satisfying in this way.
The town leaders, however, seem to be much more aware that the accusations are simply untrue. Reverend Parris knows that his niece and daughter danced in the woods with his slave, casting spells, and he withholds that information because it would make him look bad. When the accusations begin and he sees how the trials could help him to stabilize his position and authority, he becomes Danforth's right-hand man. Further, Thomas Putnam was overheard implying that he put his daughter up to making certain accusations so that he could purchase the land owned by the convicted when it went up for auction. These leaders seem much less credulous than the villagers; instead, they exploit the accusations for their own gain because they are greedy and power-hungry.