Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 242
Mary Beth Norton makes several claims that highlight the themes of In the Devil's Snare. For example, she writes,
In the Devil's Snare . . . contends that the dramatic events of 1692 can be fully understood only by viewing them as intricately related to concurrent political and military affairs in northern New England.
Norton claims that other scholars have overlooked or dismissed the importance of the two decades of wars with the native American Indians and European settlers in New England when theorizing about the causes of the Salem Witch Trials. This idea, that the trials' uniqueness cannot be accurately analyzed without reference to and an understanding of the importance of these two late seventeenth-century wars, is central to Norton's argument.
Norton also argues that a proper understanding of the Salem Witch Trials requires the researcher to ask the following question:
Why was Salem so different from all previous witchcraft episodes in New England?
According to her, many historians have failed to even identify the events of 1692 as different or unique. She believes that several factors make the Salem witch hysteria singular: the high number of accusers and accused, how far —geographically—the accusations reached (it wasn't just one or two adjacent towns but twenty-two!), the fact that the accusers were mostly young women rather than men, the high number of convictions and executions, as well as the speed with which opinions reversed after the investigations ended (rather than suspicions continuing to linger years later).
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