Reflection of Gender and Power in the Salem Witchcraft Trials.
Salem Witch Trials can be perceived as an iconic event in the annals of American history that has evoked a lot of interest and controversies…
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An analysis of the event, with reference to the cultural norms prevalent during the era, reveals that gender is one among the salient factors that contributed to the culmination of the Salem Witchcraft Trials. In colonial New England women were considered as promiscuous and female children were assigned the lowest social status. Thus, it transpires that in a male dominant society, through implicating women in witchcraft, men have actually attempted to demonstrate their power within a patriarchal system by punishing the hapless females from the lower strata of society in the name of the Salem Witch Trials. During the trials, many including Constable Joseph Herrick deposed that they either had seen or were informed that one of the main accused, Sarah Good, had gone “barefoot and bare-legged” and “afflicted” Elizabeth Hubbard and other young girls (Godbeer 77). This contention has also been substantiated by the afflicted Elizabeth Hubbard, who testified that she had seen Sarah Good’s apparition “afflicting the body” of other girls (75). It transpires that the neighbors of the accused had malevolent intentions towards her and in connivance with the governing class that held the power, she was implicated in witchcraft. In this context, it needs to be recalled that Puritans held the notion that the native inhabitants of New England “belonged to the Devil” until the arrival of the Protestants and that religion had exercised power over the government (17). Thus, women like Sarah Good have been falsely implicated with witchcraft, tried and executed in Salem, which is a reflection of misuse of power during that regime. Another major factor to be considered is that religion has played a crucial role within the society in colonial America and religious leaders had a dominating presence due to which their “advice extended beyond spiritual matters” and, hence, they had a say in “economic and political concerns, as well as gender relations” (Parrillo 52). Thus, in the absence of a “civil government of its own” religion assumed the power in governance, which it could use in any manner to attain its objectives (Godbeer 19). Such was the power of the church that the affected young girls actually believed that they were possessed and were “fighting a war against their inner demons” (23). Under the circumstances, the afflicted persons, who believed that their neighbors caused the problem, had to choose between the options of either spiritual retribution or taking legal action against them. Thus, the decision of “subjecting a supernatural crime to judicial scrutiny” was taken, for which strong evidence is required. However, since religion wielded a higher power than logic, women who were assigned a lower social status within the social system were tried and put to death by the powerful church, to restore the faith of more prominent citizens. Another major factor to be considered in Salem Witchcraft Trials is that for a mysterious occurrence in a village, the entire community implicated members of one gender as if women were to be blamed for all that was bad and men to be praised for all the good. This notion stems from the patriarchal system in the society, which never wanted to recognize the significance of women within in the familial and social contexts. For the powerful church and male chauvinists as well the government it was an easy way out to blame women from the lower social strata like Sarah Good and
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But because the practicing religion was always shaky clergy and laity sought to learn about their future out of desperation, fear and hope. However the puritans equally feared the devil and its strange plot
Salem Witch Trials. During the period of 17th century, people residing in the region of New England were fearful of the existence of devil (Findling 259). As a result of this fear, several innocent individuals including children and women were accused of indulging in the act of witchcraft and were hanged to death.
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The hysteria began in the home of the Reverend Samuel Parris, who, prior to becoming a minister, had been a merchant in Barbados. When he and his family moved to Salem, he brought a couple who were his slaves, Tituba and John Indian, with them. It is believed that Tituba told Parris' daughter and her friends about Voodoo, a religion that combined African shamanistic religion and Roman Catholicism.
From a small town in Massachusetts, the Salem trial began as a rumor that origin from a group of young women who were allegedly practicing witchery act. Their friends and neighbors knew about this and began confronting them why they were doing an act deemed to be unacceptable by the church.
In 1688 Mary Glover, an Irish servant girl, was hanged as a witch and four years later in nearby Salem, the infamous Salem Witch Trials began which led to a mass execution within the Puritan community .
During the Salem witch trials which occurred between 1692 and 1693 over 150 people were accused, arrested and imprisoned for the offence of witchcraft, 19 were hanged or crushed to death and 17 others died in prison.
While the trials and executions have been portrayed as the overzealous actions of the naive religious leaders working to rid the town of Satan, there may have been a more sinister conspiracy lurking just
y Innocent VIII had declared that the inquisitors appointed by the church for putting to trial and punishing persons accused as witches, had complete power to punish “the aforesaid persons for their said offences and crimes” (1484). It is clear from the above statement
n sentenced to death and were consequently executed, while four others died in prison while still waiting for their trial, and more than one hundred were sentenced to long prison sentences (Roach, 2002). The Salem Witch Trials (1692) began as an action of the extended tradition
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