Publication Date

Fall 2014

Faculty Supervisor

Joseph Walwick


Power dynamics played a significant role in the Salem Witch Trials—the first accusers powerless within the framework of Puritan society, thus readily and greedily grasping the power granted them by their supposed possession. The accused were either easily exploited due to their powerlessness, or unusually powerful and threatening. And, of course, the majority of the accusers and accused were women. Women’s position in Puritan society was extraordinarily complex—while the soul itself was regarded as a feminine force, Puritan society perpetuated a culture of feminine self-loathing that many women, accusers and accused, were clearly affected by.The entire witch trial played out in the context of power struggles between the increasingly metropolitan Salem Town and the more rustic Salem Village (where the trials themselves were carried out). How best to examine these power structures? I shall first provide a summary of women’s and children’s respective positions in Puritan society and how their positions could be corrupted by malefic witchcraft, and the cultural forces impacting their sense of selves. I shall then turn my attention to four of the most pivotal and archetypal accused (Tituba, Bridget Bishop, Rebecca Nurse, and Mary English) and three of the accusers (Mary Warren, Ann Putnam Sr., and Ann Putnam Jr.). Lastly, I will describe the trials themselves, discussing how power, not religion or gender roles, perpetuated the Salem Witch Trials.


History 104


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