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