How is pathos created for Goody Putnam?

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Considerable pathos is generated by the knowledge that Mrs. Putnam has lost all her children in their infancy. Even though infant morality was depressingly common in those days, it still seems shocking that Ann should lose seven of her children this way. More to the point, it's incredibly shocking to her: so much so that she starts wondering whether there are malevolent forces at work responsible for all this tragedy. Deranged by grief over the loss of so many children and living in a time when medical knowledge is rudimentary, to say the least, Ann Putnam ascribes her misfortune to the workings of witchcraft.

In this sense, Ann is an unsympathetic character. In pointing the finger of suspicion at Goody Nurse, she is igniting the fire of lies, suspicion, and mass hysteria that will soon engulf the town of Salem, destroying innocent lives and leaving devastation in its wake.

Yet, at the same time, it's impossible not to have at least some basic human sympathy towards Ann for what she's been through. And this is where the pathos generated by her suffering comes into the picture. Ann has clearly been so deeply traumatized by losing so many children in infancy that it's affecting her mind. That doesn't make it right for her to accuse Goody Nurse of witchcraft, of course, but we can at least understand where she's coming from.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 10, 2020
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