In The Crucible, what do Putnam and Proctor argue about and what could it foreshadow?

Quick answer:

Putnam and Proctor argue about the appropriate way to proceed with an investigation of witchcraft. Putnam, who is quite superstitious, is convinced that witches are at work in Salem, while Proctor, who is quite rational, sees no evidence for such a claim. Proctor accuses Putnam of trying to manipulate the town to benefit himself, making Proctor a potential target of future accusations and malice. Putnam prevails on Parris while Proctor is ignored, foreshadowing the way he is eventually silenced.

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Mr. Putnam is convinced that there are witches in Salem, and he wants Reverend Parris to make an announcement to this effect and deal with the situation openly and publicly. Proctor, however, points out that Putnam is making claims for which there is no evidence: there are no children dying in the village, just a couple little girls who are acting strangely.

Further, Proctor fears that Putnam is simply attempting to manipulate the town for his own benefit. He says, "This society will not be a bag to swing around your head, Mr. Putnam." Then, when Mr. Putnam tells Reverend Parris that he must proceed to investigate any potential signs of witchcraft when Reverend Hale arrives, Proctor says, "You cannot command Mr. Parris. We vote by name in this society, not by acreage."

Proctor knows very well what kind of person Mr. Putnam is, and he sees how Putnam is attempting to direct the actions of the town when really, many more people ought to have some say in how to proceed or even if it is necessary at this point. This is significant because it shows us how much ill will exists between these two men, as well as the fact that Proctor will stand up to people when he sees some wrong or injustice taking place. This could potentially foreshadow his later arrest for witchcraft when he tries to do precisely the same thing in court.

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