How could stress account for some of the unusual behaviors observed in the Salem Witch Trials?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In so many ways, Salem was a cauldron of stress that bubbled over in the most intense of manners in the Witchcraft Trials.  The basic premise behind life in Salem was the stress caused by the perceived presence of Satan. The stress this caused was palpable in the lives of Salemites, who constantly had to fear if their own sinful condition, original or human made, would invite the presence of Satan and the social rebuke as well as the divine condemnation that such a presence brings.  This created a spiritual and social level of stress that manifested itself in the trials.  At the same time, another level of stress arises from the conformity and need to assimilate that dominated Salem.  The society of Salem did not address or tolerate "outsiders" very well.  The essence of the trials in terms of accusations and being cast on the "outside" helped to create a level of stress where no one wished to be the object of the social order's gaze. This stress compelled individuals to sever bonds with others and "name names" in the avoidance of being implicated themselves.  In this, there is a distinct reality of stress being accountable for much of what happened during the Salem Witch Trials.

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