In The Crucible, why do so many of the accusers lie about the existence of witchcraft?

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There are a number of reasons why characters lie about witchcraft and implicate others as witches. These include fear, guilt, revenge, greed for property and paranoia. 

Tituba, Reverend Parris' slave from Barbados, is the first to start accusing others of witchcraft after Abigail implicates her. She opens up a can...

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There are a number of reasons why characters lie about witchcraft and implicate others as witches. These include fear, guilt, revenge, greed for property and paranoia. 

Tituba, Reverend Parris' slave from Barbados, is the first to start accusing others of witchcraft after Abigail implicates her. She opens up a can of worms which exposes the underlying malevolence in Salem society. When she is confronted about her activities in the woods she, at first, denies any wrongdoing. It is only when she is threatened, that she 'confesses' and starts naming so-called witches in the village who had apparently sent out their spirits to her.

Tituba: I don't compact with no Devil!

Parris: You will confess yourself or I will take you out and whip you to your death, Tituba!

Putnam: This woman must be hanged! She must be taken and hanged!

Tituba, terrified, falls to her knees: No, no, don't hang Tituba! I tell him I don't desire to work for him, sir.

When Reverend Hale tells Tituba that she would be doing God's work and would be redeemed, she is obviously relieved and is prepared to say practically everything to save herself. She becomes a pawn in the hands of her accusers and is guided by their questions and assertions. She tells Reverend Parris that the devil had repeatedly instructed her to kill him. This is probably more an expression of her guilt for harbouring ill-feelings towards the reverend, than anything else. She then names Sarah Good as one of those who accompanied the devil on one of his supposed visitations.

At this point, Abigail joins Tituba and vehemently starts naming others whom she claims to have also seen with the devil. It is not long before Betty joins in and they start shouting out random names of those they had seen consorting with Satan. Not long after, the group of girls who were seen dancing in the woods, are called to court to testify. They implicate many others. The girls are in a frenzy to absolve themselves from blame and make others responsible for their indulgence in the woods. Furthermore, the accusations give them a power they never had. The rules of Salem society required them to be submissive and respectful. Their freedoms were repressed and the trials give them an opportunity, as it were, to lash back at the deeply conservative strictures they had to adhere to

Added to this, there were opportunists who saw the trials as a chance to enrich themselves and avenge whatever wrongs they believed had been incurred upon them by those they despised. The Putnams were wealthy landowners and eminent citizens of the village. They had, over the years, acquired many enemies because of their continuous battles over property and political status. 

Thomas Putnam had many grievances and saw those who opposed his greed for property and who denied him what he believed was rightfully his, as enemies. He went as far as using his daughter, Ruth, to accuse George jacobs so that he may acquire his property. He also wanted to get rid of Francis and Rebecca Nurse as well as Giles Corey and John Proctor, people he despised. 

The Reverend Parris also had issues with a number of Salem's residents. He was paranoid about his position and believed that there was a faction out to get rid of him. It was, therefore, easy for him to accuse his enemies and pile up evidence against them so that he was finally rid of their criticism. Such a person was John Proctor. Reverend Parris increasingly meddled in the court's affairs to finally be free of him. 

The witch trials created fear and frenzy amongst the villagers and those who were accused had to confess or name others who had been consorting with Satan. Many of the accused did just that in order to save themselves from hanging. In the end, all those accused became innocent victims of the spite, greed and paranoia of others.

 

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