Why is Thomas Putnam bitter in act 1 of The Crucible?

Thomas Putnam is bitter in act 1 of The Crucible because he supported James Bayley, who was not elected as Salem's minister. Thomas Putnam is also bitter because he did not receive all of his father's inheritance, and seven of his eight children died young. Thomas is bitter that he cannot have a large family and resents successful, big families like the Nurses.

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Thomas Putnam illustrates the way secular grievances and religious superstitions can come together to wreak havoc on a community.

Putnam is bitter for a variety of reasons that include feeling cheated of his rightful inheritance, feeling betrayed when his wife's brother-in-law, John Bayley, is not made Salem's minister, and believing it is unfair that he has lost seven of his eight children when he wanted a large family—and many of his neighbors have large broods. Fear and bitterness drive his behavior.

Putnam cynically promotes the witchcraft allegations because he is a bitter and greedy man. He hopes that by denouncing neighbors with large landholdings, he will be able seize their lands and make up for not getting, in his opinion, his rightful inheritance. He also exploits the witchcraft accusations to settle a score with the Nurses, a family with whom he has a feud.

But his support of the witchcraft accusations is not entirely cynical: he also bitterly fears that demonic spells might take his final child from him.

Miller wrote the play to denounce McCarthyism, in which many innocent people had their careers destroyed over accusations that they supported communism. These fears were often quite irrational, but also a way to settle scores, and the highly publicized hearings were sometimes called witch hunts. Through Putnam, Miller is exploring the various ways a bitter person can be motivated to participate in persecuting others.

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Thomas Putnam is depicted as an extremely bitter, greedy man, who is focused on undermining Reverend Parris and using the Salem witch trials as a land grab. The source of Thomas Putnam's bitterness stems from the fact that his wife's brother-in-law, James Bayley, was turned down as minister of Salem. Although Bayley was qualified, a faction of the community prevented him from becoming the minister. Instead of James Bayley becoming minister, Reverend Parris was elected, which explains Putnam's negative feelings towards him. Miller also writes that Thomas Putnam was bitter because he did not receive all of his inheritance. Thomas Putnam's father left a disproportionate amount of his will to Thomas's step-brother.
In addition to Thomas Putnam's failure regarding James Bayley's election and the unfortunate circumstance involving his father's will, Thomas Putnam is also bitter because seven of his eight children died young. After losing seven children, Thomas Putnam is concerned about the health of his only surviving child, who is suffering from a mysterious illness. Thomas Putnam is one of nine sons and is bitter that he cannot have a large family. Thomas and his wife resent successful families like the Nurses, and Ann proceeds to accuse Rebecca of murdering several of her children later in the play. As the play progresses, Thomas Putnam begins encouraging his daughter to falsely accuse innocent people of witchcraft and uses the witch trials to acquire more land.
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In act 1, Thomas Putnam and his wife visit Reverend Parris's home to see Betty. During their visit, Arthur Miller interjects to provide the audience with some background information regarding Thomas's character. Miller mentions that Thomas Putnam is a man with many grievances against his neighbors and holds a grudge against Reverend Parris for being elected as Salem's minister over his wife's brother-in-law, James Bayley. Thomas Putnam is deeply interested in parish affairs and resents the fact that a faction prevented Bayley from being elected as Salem's reverend. Thomas Putnam also had Salem's former minister jailed for debts that he did not owe and is also attempting to break his father's will, which left a disproportionate amount to his stepbrother. Overall, Thomas Putnam is a bitter man, who resents Reverend Parris for being elected over his wife's brother-in-law and holds grudges against his neighbors, who did not support his candidate for Salem's reverend. Thomas Putnam is mainly concerned with removing Reverend Parris from his position of authority in act 1.

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In addition to Thomas Putnam's bitterness over Salem politics and religion as well as the bitterness he experienced as a result of his father's will, Putnam is also bitter because of the deaths of seven of his eight children.  His wife, Anne, claims that seven of her eight babies died within a day of their birth, and they have no good idea why.  Now, the health of their one surviving child, Ruth, seems to be failing (she, like Betty Parris, is ill) and, again, they have no explanation. The Putnams believe that witchcraft must be to blame for this terrible pattern because they cannot conceive of another reason for them to have such bad luck and for others, like Rebecca Nurse, to never lose a child nor a grandchild.  When Reverend Parris says that he doesn't think a witch is to blame, Putnam grows angrier.  He says, "I am one of nine sons; the Putnam seed have peopled this province.  And yet I have but one child left of eight—and now she shrivels!"  This is yet another reason for his bitterness.

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Thomas Putnam is bitter for several reasons.  Miller tells the reader in the narration in Chapter I that he had many grievances with people. 

The first grievance mentioned is that his wife's brother-in-law, James Bayley, was rejected as minister of Salem even though he was highly qualified for the position.  There was a faction (large political party) who kept him from being voted into that position. 

Second, he tried to break his father's will, which left a disproportionate amount of wealth to his stepbrother.

Because Thomas Putnam viewed himself "as the intellectual superior of most of the people around him" (Miller 14), he took it personally when the faction rejected James Bayley.  He felt it was an attack upon his honor and his good name.  In addition, his failure at breaking his father's will was again humiliation of his honor and his what he believed his good name.

As a result of this humiliation, Thomas Putnam found his revenge by accusing many people of witchcraft and also having his daughter cry out against the innocent people of Salem Village.

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