How does the Putnam/Nurse conflict contribute to the plot of the play, The Crucible?
Early in the play, the conflict between the Putman and Nurse families helps to demonstrate the underlying tensions within the town.
Rebecca Nurse suggests that bringing Hale into town to search for devils and witches will be a bad idea. She understands that conflicts already exist in the town that will be inflamed by a divisive outsider. (She is, of course, proven right about this.)
The Putmans respond defensively and imply that Rebecca Nurse is casting judgement upon them while clearly articulating also an animosity toward Rebecca. They cite their loss of children first as a complaint against Rebecca's lack of loss and against her easy advice. Next they cite a complaint against the Corey's sale of a tract of land.
These disputes lead to an accusation against Rebecca. The history of a grudge in this example parallels that of Abigail and Elizabeth and similarly explains the accusations made. These histories show that the trials are motivated by personal vendetta, not honest belief that witchcraft is being conducted. Yet, the stakes are life and death.
The clarity of this dynamic helps to build tension in the second half of the play as innocent people stand accused and sentenced to death.