How Do Betty and Ruth's symptoms differ in "The Crucible"?

Expert Answers
pickjmh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Act One we learn that Betty cannot wake. According to her cousin, Abigail, the symptom began the night before when Betty's father, Rev. Parris, discovered them dancing in the woods. According to Abby, Betty "was frightened and fainted." When the Putnam family enters, we learn that their sole surviving daughter (the other children have all died within a day of their birth) also cannot wake. In contrast to Betty, Ruth's eyes are open as she walks around, but she still is not conscious. Hinting that the girls' ailment may not be genuine, Betty wakes up after the adults have left & her cousin threatens her. She cries for her dead mother, perhaps revealing that, at least in part, her condition is an attempt to get attention from her only living parent, Parris.  She then has enough cognition to know what Abby did and did not say to her uncle while Betty was supposedly unconscious. However, even more important than the girls' symptoms, their parents' reaction reveal very important information. Reverend Parris is much more concerned with how the situation looks than the health of his child. He notes that some in the congregation wish him to lose his position in the church and knows these rumors of the girls' involvement in witchcraft will be used against him. Putnam, we learn throughout the play, is a man obsessed with success and power. In fact, later, in Act  III, Putnam is accused of using his daughter's accusations to gain land.