The Crucible Questions and Answers
by Arthur Miller

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How do grudges and self-interest drive the Salem witch trials?

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In the austere, religious Puritan society, longstanding negative feelings, grievances, and grudges between neighbors help fuel the hysteria surrounding the witch trials, as citizens seeking vengeance begin to falsely accuse their neighbors of witchcraft. Thomas Putnam and his wife are prime examples of citizens who use the witch trials to seek vengeance. Thomas Putnam is initially motivated to remove Reverend Parris from office by making him the focal point of the supernatural events because he was elected reverend over Putnam's brother-in-law, Bayley. Thomas Putnam hopes to blame Reverend Parris for the supernatural activity in order to remove him from office. Ruth Putnam holds a grudge against Rebecca Nurse, who was part of the faction that elected Parris over Bayley and has numerous grandchildren. Ruth resents Rebecca Nurse for her large family and supports her arrest.

Abigail Williams is solely driven by self-interest and accuses Elizabeth Proctor of being involved in witchcraft in order to be with Elizabeth's husband, John Proctor. After John carries on a secret affair with Abigail, Elizabeth kicks her out of her home and John stops speaking to her. Abigail is still very much attracted to John and attempts to get rid of Elizabeth by falsely accusing her of witchcraft. Abigail is portrayed as a malevolent, callous young girl, who uses the witch trials to elevate her social status and seek revenge on the people who have wronged her. When she feels threatened by John Proctor and Mary Warren in act 3, she falsely accuses them of both being involved in witchcraft.

Reverend Parris is also aware that members of Salem's community want him removed from office and uses the court to punish his enemies. He fears popular citizens, such as John Proctor and Giles Corey, and attempts to persuade the court officials to arrest them in order retain his title as Salem's reverend. Even Deputy Governor Danforth and Judge Hathorne hold grudges against disgruntled citizens who have the audacity to challenge their authority. They end up arresting Giles Corey and John Proctor and sentencing both citizens to death.

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