In act one of The Crucible, Mrs. Putnam and her husband visit Reverend Parris's home and begin discussing the arrival of witchcraft in the community of Salem. When Rebecca Nurse arrives, she warns Reverend Parris and the Putnams that they should not immediately start blaming witchcraft as the cause of the recent events. Rebecca insists that there is "prodigious danger in the seeking of loose spirits" and would prefer the community members search among themselves for answers before jumping to irrational conclusions. Mrs. Putnam, who is very much jealous of Rebecca, responds by saying,
There are wheels within wheels in this village, and fires within fires! (Miller, 35).
Mrs. Putnam is essentially challenging Rebecca's perspective and believes that there are hidden, unknown spiritual explanations to the sudden illnesses. The connotative meaning behind Mrs. Putnam's statement correlates to the truth behind the witch hunt. In reality, the witch hunt is fueled by greed, jealousy, and vengeance. As the play progresses, certain citizens seek revenge for various reasons by accusing their enemies of witchcraft. The "fires within fires" are essentially the burning grudges and grievances between citizens, which plays out in Salem's courtroom.