In The Crucible, why does Ann Putnam dislike Rebecca Nurse? What are the two families constantly arguing over?
Mrs. Putnam has lost seven of her eight children within the first day of their births. Miller describes her as "a twisted soul of forty-five, a death-ridden woman, haunted by dreams." She is desperate to understand why so many of her children have perished, and, in her desperation, she sent her one surviving daughter, Ruth, to Tituba, Parris's Barbadian slave, to see if they could conjure the spirits of her dead babies and find out what happened to them. She is a woman who is very ready to believe in the possibility that witches exist in Salem, and that they have used their magic against her.
Rebecca Nurse, on the other hand, has been extremely lucky. She has lost not one child or grandchild to death, and for this reason alone, Mrs. Putnam is extremely envious of her and a little suspicious of her too. Rebecca is much less willing to accept the possibility that there are witches in Salem, and when she learns that Parris has sent for an expert on witches, Mr. Hale, to find out why some of the local girls are ill, she says,
I think we ought to rely on the doctor now, and good prayer [....]. If [the doctor is baffled] then let us go to God for the cause of it. There is prodigious danger in the seeking of loose spirits. I fear it, I fear it. Let us rather blame ourselves [...] --
Rebecca is calm and kind and devout. She believes that, if the community struggles, they should look to themselves for the cause of it. Mrs. Putnam interprets this as Rebecca's judgment on her, and she feels she's done nothing to warrant losing seven babies. In anger, she cries,
You think it God's work you should never lose a child, nor a grandchild either, and I bury all but one? There are wheels within wheels in this village, and fires within fires!
Thus, the personal becomes the political for Mrs. Putnam. Because she needs an answer as to why she's lost seven children, she looks to any possible explanation, and, having exhausted her meager resources, she assumes that witchcraft must be at the root of it. She is frustrated and grieved, and she vents her pain at Rebecca because Rebecca advocates for reason and medicine instead of an exploration of the supernatural.
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