In "The Crucible," what does the “spareness” of the Puritan setting reveal about the lives of the townspeople of Salem?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The "spare" nature  of Salem plays a major role in why the town is the setting for the Witchcraft Trials.  In the stage directions to the First Act, Miller describes the town, itself, and makes several observations that allows the reader to fully grasp that Salem is ripe for something like the Witchcraft Trials to happen.  The "spareness" that is alluded to is the sparse way of living, where individuals are required to subjugate all emotions and sense of the self to something larger, namely a rather imposing and dominating belief in God.  Yet, Miller suggests that this "spareness" in terms of living a life without extravagance actually helps to foster the sense of intrusion that neighbors have towards one another.  There is a "predilection" that Miller feels lives in Salem that makes the notion of intruding into the affairs of other people as part of the culture of the town.  Miller suggests that this happens because of the paltry demeanor that is emphasized culturally.  In order to compensate for this, neighbors become more interested in their neighbors' affairs, if nothing else to ensure that they are living in accordance to the same spareness that all others are forced to live.  The excessive emphasis on spirituality removes the notion of materialism, something that Miller points out distinguished Jamestown from Salem.  Additionally, it is this coveting of wealth, something that is socially condemned, that makes Corey's claim of Putnam wishing to take more land and sell it at a higher profit a valid assertion.

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