In The Crucible, what does the Puritan setting's "spareness" reveal about Salem's townspeople?

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The "spare" nature  of Salem plays a major role in why the town is the setting for the Witchcraft Trials.  In the stage directions to the First Act, Miller describes the town, itself, and makes several observations that allows the reader to fully grasp that Salem is ripe for something like the Witchcraft Trials to happen.  The "spareness" that is alluded to is the sparse way of living, where individuals are required to subjugate all emotions and sense of the self to something larger, namely a rather imposing and dominating belief in God.  Yet, Miller suggests that this "spareness" in terms of living a life without extravagance actually helps to foster the sense of intrusion that neighbors have towards one another.  There is a "predilection" that Miller feels lives in Salem that makes the notion of intruding into the affairs of other people as part of the culture of the town.  Miller suggests that this happens because of the paltry demeanor that is emphasized culturally.  In order to compensate for this, neighbors become more interested in their neighbors' affairs, if nothing else to ensure that they are living in accordance to the same spareness that all others are forced to live.  The excessive emphasis on spirituality removes the notion of materialism, something that Miller points out distinguished Jamestown from Salem.  Additionally, it is this coveting of wealth, something that is socially condemned, that makes Corey's claim of Putnam wishing to take more land and sell it at a higher profit a valid assertion.

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What does the "spareness" of the Puritan setting reveal about the lives of the townspeople of Salem in The Crucible?

Life in early New England was harsh for its settlers: food was scarce, the weather was challenging, and people struggled to make ends meet. The Puritan austerity was expressed via the spare look of clothing and home furnishings. The focus in everyday life was on basic survival and religious piety. But struggles for social hierarchy and dominance still occurred, and led to clashes of ego among community members. The drabness of everyday life in Salem Village helped to create an atmosphere of frustration and boredom, and coupled with the struggles for social dominance this atmosphere helped lead to the volatile situation with the witchcraft accusations.

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What does the "sparseness" of the Puritan setting reveal about lives of townspeople of Salem?

The sparseness of the Puritan setting seems to emphasize the lack of nuance in the Puritan way of thinking.  There seems to be no room for discussion or even mercy in this community.  Once community leaders have decided that witches must surely be to blame for Ruth Putnam's and Betty Parris's illness, there is no going back and no room for dissent.  Either one agrees with this assessment (and is counted among the correct and righteous) or one disagrees with this assessment (and therefore must be a witch or, at least, sympathetic to them).  As Deputy Governor Danforth says in Act Three, "a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there be no read between."  If a person questions the court or the girls, then the judges' (and Parris's) assumption is that the person has "come to overthrow" the court; it is impossible even to present evidence that opposes evidence which has already been provided and not be viewed with suspicion.  The Puritans' black-and-white way of seeing the world is physically represented by the sparseness of the setting, even the dark colors they wear and the strictness of their behaviors and beliefs.

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