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PUTNAM: Now look you, sir. Let you strike out against the Devil, and the village will bless you for it! Come down, speak to them- pray with them. They're thirsting for your word, Mister! Surely you’ll pray with them.
PARRIS, (swayed): I'll lead them in a psalm, but let you say nothing of witchcraft yet. I will not discuss it. The cause is yet unknown. I have had enough contention since I came; I want no more. (I.125-126)
Thomas Putnam urges Parris to take spiritual control of the situation and show who is in charge. Parris agrees with him, but still wants to be cautious. He recognizes how the battle of good vs. evil can easily get out of hand. Parris is probably also influenced by Putnam’s wealth and power.
MRS. PUTNAM: Reverend Parris, I have laid seven babies unbaptized in the earth. Believe me, sir, you never saw more hearty babies born. And yet, each would wither in my arms the very night of their birth. I have spoke nothin', but my heart has clamored intimations. And now, this year, my Ruth, my only – I see her turning strange. A secret child she has become this year, and shrivels like a sucking mouth were pullin’ on her life too. And so I thought to send her to your Tituba-
PARRIS: To Tituba! What may Tituba-?
MRS. PUTNAM: Tituba knows how to speak to the dead, Mr. Parris.
PARRIS: Goody Ann, it is a formidable sin to conjure up the dead!
MRS. PUTNAM: I take it on my soul, but who else may surely tell us what person murdered my babies?
PARRIS, horrified: Woman!
MRS. PUTNAM: They were murdered, Mr. Parris! And mark this proof! Last night my Ruth were ever so close to their little spirits; I know it, sir. For how else is she struck dumb now except some power of darkness would stop her mouth? It is a marvelous sign, Mr. Parris!
PUTNAM: Don’t you understand it, sir? There is a murdering witch among us, bound to keep himself in the dark. (I.103-110)
Mr. and Mrs. Putnam are convinced there is a supernatural explanation for all their dead babies. Though there could be a hundred other explanations for their only surviving daughter Ruth Putnam’s behavior (including her relationship with Abigail), they find it more comforting to explain it as proof of witchcraft. If evil took their babies, then there is nothing they can do but seek God’s help -- a more comforting thought than that it might be their own fault or nobody’s. At least this gives them somebody or something to fight against.
The parochial snobbery of these people was partly responsible for their failure to convert the Indians. Probably they also preferred to take land from heathens rather than from fellow Christians. At any rate, very few Indians were converted, and the Salem folk believed that the virgin forest was the Devil’s last preserve, his home base and the citadel of his final stand. To the best of their knowledge the American forest was the last place on earth that was not paying homage to God. (I. paragraph 10)
The Puritans in Salem saw the world divided into clear realms of power: good vs. evil. In this case, the narrator suggests that the forest was seen as the realm where evil prevailed; the town is the realm where good, or God, prevailed.