In The Crucible, why do the Putnams believe that witchcraft is responsible for their daughter Ruth's illness? 

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lusie0520 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One characteristic of the Puritans in Salem is that they are very superstitious.  The Putnams are a very good example of this.  They are the first in the town to jump to the conclusion that the problem must be witchcraft.  Mrs. Putnam has a few reasons for believing that Ruth is “bewitched.” Mrs. Putnam has lost seven children during childbirth, and this has made her a bitter, vengeful woman.  In an effort to understand what happened to her babies, she sends Ruth out into the woods to conjure up their spirits.  “I take it on my soul, but who else may surely tell us what person murdered my babies?” 

Mrs. Putnam cannot help but believe there are evil spirits in the town.  How else can she explain the tragedy that has occurred in her life?  This is the reason she is far from surprised when Ruth is “afflicted.”  Mrs. Putnam believes with all her heart that evil spirits took away her babies.  “Last night my Ruth were ever so close to their little spirits. How else is she struck dumb now except some power of darkness should stop her mouth?” The fact that Mrs. Putnam is so willing to believe stems from both her natural superstition as a Puritan in a strange world, but also from the repeated tragedy of losing child after child.

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The Crucible

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