Why is Tituba not responsible for the tragedies in Salem? 

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appletrees eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although Tituba was in some ways a catalyst for getting some of the young girls in Salem interested in magic and divination, she was not necessarily responsible for the hysteria that pervaded the village. The situation that allowed this to happen was related to a much larger context, and Tituba's role was a relatively minor one. She also confessed and wished to be forgiven for her sins and renounced her dealing with the devil (according to historical documents), showing she was willing to leave behind her pagan religious beliefs (as the villagers saw them) and accept Christianity. It may be she was merely telling the court officials what they wanted to hear in order to escape a harsh sentence. It is not known what her ethnic background was, other than "Indian" as stated in court records, but generally it is assumed she was from Barbados. Her ethnic difference made her an effective scapegoat, since her "otherness" made her stand out, and her status as a slave meant she was vulnerable to accusations. 

But with or without Tituba, Salem was ripe for such an event to occur. In addition to a superstitious belief system that led people to believe that financial ruin, illness, crop failure, impotence and various other problems could be caused by witchcraft, the people of Salem, like other Puritans living in Colonial New England, were living with many domestic and social challenges. Many people were having trouble making ends meet due to the harshness of the winter climate and the lack of resources. There was conflict about religion and leadership in many towns. The tensions surrounding daily life boiled up in some places and helped create an atmosphere where witchcraft accusations could flourish.