The Puritans were a branch of English Protestants who were particularly
influential during the 16th and 17th Centuries.
They came into being during the reign of Elizabeth I, being a group of
activists within the Church of England. Their chief aim was to ensure that a truly Protestant Church was created, and not an Anglo-Catholic one. Their main influence was John Calvin who was a French
Theologian of the Reformation, and in 1533 he became a Protestant and wrote the work, Institutes of the ‘Christian Religion’.
The Puritans were soon at odds with mainstream Church of England, and they
faced much persecution. Many of the leading Puritans openly opposed James I and Charles I during the 17th Century. Many of these activists immigrated to America and set up communities in the New World. They were at the height of their power in England after the English Civil War when Oliver Cromwell was Lord Protector of England.
The societies that they set up in America were generally founded upon
They viewed themselves as being a Christian oasis in the midst of the wilderness governed by the devil and inhabited by pagan Indians. The initial success of the colonies can be attributed to their ability to work as a complete unit for the same aims, but once the societies were established and they had succeeded in surviving these inhospitable conditions, many members started to rebel against the austere regime. For as time passed and the land was more cultivated, less time was needed in physical labour and many had more spare time on their hands.
The Puritan ideal is for all members of the society to share the same
beliefs and goals, but God made man to be of infinite variety, and it is unnatural to restrict the individual who needs to express their own type of freedom.
Puritans consider any desire to be unnatural and the devil’s work, in particular the desire to obtain material wealth or sexual freedom. What we have here, therefore, is similar to a pressure cooker and inside are the Puritans who are being forced to deny their natural desires and individuality. However, Miller has not called his book The Pressure Cooker, he has called it ‘The Crucible’, which likens it to a container for melting ores. It is also similar to a cauldron, which witches use, and so it serves two purposes indicating the heat of the situation and the fact that this is a witch-hunt. Of course, Puritans believe that a fate of fire and brimstone awaits those who transgress, so we have a further reference to fire and pressure.
Before 1692, the community of Salem had faced many problems and difficulties
and some of the disputes went as far as an internal Trial, but by and large, the community still carried out its day-to-day business as one unit.
On the election of Reverend Parris, which was a controversial appointment, a split occurred in the community. It didn’t help the situation that Parris made certain demands regarding his income and also he demanded the title for the minister’s manse. On one side of the divide were the Nurse family and on the other side were the Putnams, and the division between these two influential families widened. The fact that Reverend Parris had a Negro servant, Tituba, served as a catalyst for these strange events; which were attributed to witchcraft. It may be she was aware of voodoo or other such practices of the occult.
In February 1692 the first Warrants were issued and these were in respect to an eccentric woman and
another woman who rarely attended Church.
During the Trials, nineteen people were hanged as witches, and fifty-five others openly confessed to being witches. Two dogs were also hanged for witchcraft. Giles Corey was pressed to death with stones for refusing to answer to an Indictment. At the request of some of the heirs of the accused, the Government paid out various sums of money to those descendants of people hanged as witches.