Who are Ann and Thomas Putnam in The Crucible? What do they suggest is Betty's problem? What is their motivation for suggesting this?

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Ann and Thomas Putnam are a wealthy and powerful couple who live in the village. Ann Putnam is described in the stage directions as "a twisted soul of forty-five, a death-ridden woman, haunted by dreams, while Thomas Putnam is described as "a well-to-do, hard-handed landowner near fifty." The Putnams believe that Betty's "problem" is that she has been the victim of witchcraft, claiming that the Reverend Hale had located a witch in Beverly (another village) in the past year. Thomas Putnam claims that "[t]here are hurtful, vengeful spirits layin' hands on these children."

The credibility that the Putnams have to offer around this issue involves their track record with the forces of "witchcraft," which Ann blames for the early deaths of seven of her eight children, stating:

I have laid seven babies unbaptized in the earth. Believe me, Sir, you never saw more hearty babies born. And yet, each would wither in my arms the very night of their birth. And now, this year, my Ruth, my only—I see her turning strange. A secret child she has become this year, and shrivels like a sucking mouth were pullin' on her life, too.

In terms of their motivation for suggesting this, it is eventually suggested that the Putnams manipulated their daughter, Ruth, into making an accusation of witchcraft against Martha Corey in order to steal the land of her husband, Giles Corey. In other words, the Putnams have acted out of the hopes of obtaining political and financial gains.

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Ann and Thomas Putnam have buried all their babies but Ruth. Ann believes that something sinister surrounds their life , because now their only surviving child is under some type of spell. It is much easier for them to believe that some force out of their control is to blame for their woes. Witchcraft makes them blameless.

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Who are Ann and Thomas Putnam? What do they suggest Betty's problem is? What is their motivation for this suggestion?

When Ann Putnam enters, she is described as "a twisted soul of forty-five, a death-ridden woman, haunted by dreams." She is immediately convinced that Betty is preyed upon by an evil spirit and/or the Devil. 

There is considerable backstory about Thomas Putnam. He is a man with many grievances. He wanted his brother-in-law to become minister of Salem but he was denied the appointment. Thomas Putnam is vindictive and had even jailed the man who was made Salem's minister for debts accrued in paying for his wife's funeral. He also contested his father's will because he did not think so much land should have gone to his step-brother. He is greedy and quick to accuse of others when he does not get his way. 

Mr. and Mrs. Putnam have lost seven children at childbirth. Their only remaining daughter, Ruth, seems to be affected the same way Betty is. Mrs. Putnam concludes that her seven lost children were "murdered." Both Mr. and Mrs. Putnam believe that a murdering witch is responsible. Mrs. Putnam reveals that she sent Ruth to join Tituba and the other girls in order to speak to the dead and find out who killed her children. The Putnams need someone or something to blame for their misfortunes. Therefore, when they see how Betty and Ruth have been afflicted, following the night with Tituba, they conclude that it is witchcraft. 

The Putnams feel that they have been cheated in many ways. They look to accuse others for their misfortunes. Mrs. Putnam believes that witchcraft has something to do with her seven children. Mr. Putnam will use the accusations of witchcraft to argue over land. He is a greedy opportunist. 

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