Why did the Putnams dislike the Nurses?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Rebecca married Francis Nurse, who was a highly respected man in Salem who owned three hundred acres of land. It was said that Francis Nurse originally rented the land and gradually paid for it. There were certain people, particularly the Putnams, who resented his rise in social status. The Putnams also had a land dispute with the Nurses over a track of forest. Thomas Putnam was also bitter about the fact that his wife's brother-in-law, James Bayley, had been turned down as minister of Salem because a certain faction prevented Bayley from taking office. It was said that the Nurses were part of this faction. There were also certain families allied with the Nurses who decided to break away from Salem and set up a new establishment called Topsfield. Old Salemites like the Putnams resented those who chose to leave, as well as those who supported their decision. Mrs. Putnam also resents the fact that Rebecca Nurse had eleven children and twenty-six grandchildren.

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linda-allen eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There are several reasons why the Putnams would want to see Rebecca Nurse done away with. For one thing, the Putnams and the Nurses were in a disputer over the ownership of a piece of land.

Another reason why the Putnams would dislike her is that she spoke out against hiring their friend Rev. Parris to be pastor of the church. Note that it was their daughters, Betty Parris and Ruth Putnam, who first had the "spells" and that their parents were the first to mention witchcraft.

The biggest reason why Goody Putnam hated Goody Nurse was because of something she said about Ruth and Betty. Goody Putnam asked Rebecca to go to Ruth and try to wake her up. Rebecca tells her that her experience of being mother to 11 and grandmother to 26 tells her that the girls are just playing a silly game. That cuts Goody Putnam to the heart because almost all of her children have died. Rebecca's reminding her of how many living children and grandchildren she has feels like an insult to Goody Putnam and makes it easy for her to start suspecting that her babies died of unnatural causes, and maybe it was Goody Nurse behind them.

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