The people of Salem believed
"that the virgin forest was the Devil's last preserve, his home base and the citadel of his final stand...to the best of their knowledge the American forest was the last place on earth that was not paying homage to God".
The wilderness that surrounded the village was "full of mystery" for the Puritans. It "stood, dark and threatening, over their shoulders night and day, for out of it Indian tribes marauded from time to time". Many of the settlers had lost relatives to the Indians, and so they were afraid of them and looked upon them as "heathens", with the forest as their abode.
The Puritans were unquestionably possessed of a strong sense of "parochial snobbery". They made little attempt to convert the Indians to their faith, and the author suggests that part of the reason for this failure might have been because "they preferred to take land from heathens rather than from fellow Christians" (Act I, Overture).