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Salem Witch Trials and Hawthorne


Salem in the late 1600s
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The Salem Witch Trials With Connections to Nathaniel Hawthorne



            Witchcraft has been around for a long time. During the Middle Ages, the European doctrine of witchcraft was formed. Between 1560 and 1680, more than 3,000 witches were put to death in Germany. In England more than 1,300 were executed. The ideas of witchcraft did not change with settling of Europeans on American soil. The Puritans especially brought their beliefs, superstitions, and religious ideals along with them. There were several reasons why the Salem Witch Trials occurred (Cox 2(1)). Many believed that most of these reasons fell upon psychological factors within Salem (Salem 3(4)). The Salem Witch Trials not only affected the people accused and their families, but they also had an affect on several other issues including land in Salem (Wikipedia 2). Most everyone has heard the stories of the Salem Witch Trials; however, not everyone knows that Nathaniel Hawthorne has a close connection to these trials which he associates within his works (Murray 1).

            To begin with there were several psychological factors for the Salem Witch Hunts. One theory is the Puritans use of ergot—a unique substance that can cause symptoms similar to those of LSD. LSD has a terrible affect on the brain; ergot has that same awful affect on the brain. They used ergot to make bread; therefore, this could have been one of the most influencing factors of the Salem Witch Hunts (Salem 3). Another theory is that Salem was also beginning to split into two different areas. People were beginning to distrust and become suspicious of their neighbors. The two different areas consisted of farmers and original settlers and the other was made up of new comers and very prosperous people (Wikipedia 3). The third theory is the people’s motives of greed and jealousy. Sometimes the accusers had something to gain from the accused if they were convicted (Salem 3).

            The Salem Witch Trials were a horrible time in the history of the United States. It had an affect on everything and everyone involved or surrounding it. The trials not included only Salem, but they included several surrounding towns as well. Many people lost their land, because once someone is accused of witchcraft the government then seized all of their property. The accused even had to pay for their food and lodging while in jail whether they were convicted or not. Many of the accused had to stay in jail long after the trial ended because they couldn’t to get out (Sutter 6). The people were not the only thing to suffer during and after the trials; the land suffered as well. Many of those who were accused that was not arrested yet would pack up most of their belongings and hide in New York. They would leave their land, cattle, and what was left of their belongings uncared for and abandoned (Wikipedia 2).

            Nathaniel Hawthorne, a famous American novelist and short story writer, was born in Salem, Massachusetts. Hawthorne was greatly influenced from his Puritan background and ancestry. One of Hawthorne’s forefathers presided over the Salem witch trials. His name was John Hawthorne. Hawthorne felt so much guilt for his forefather’s participation in the trials that Hawthorne felt compelled to change the spelling of his name; henceforth, came the letter “w” within his name (Hawthorne 1). Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” takes place in the 1700s in Salem during the witch paranoia. This story tells of a man who ventures out in the woods and comes across the “devil” and finds out that all of the towns people—the preacher and his wife included—were all involved in a pact with the devil. Through his writings, Hawthorne is able to express his feelings and guilt over the Salem Witch Trials (Brown 1).

            The Salem Witch Trials are actually a horrible part of America’s history. It is great to be able to learn more and new information everyday. The first interesting fact was that the Salem Witch Trials actually happened due to Puritans’ psychological feelings and unintentional “drug” taking. Another important fact about the Salem Witch Trials is how it not only affected the accused and their families, but they affected everything. The last interesting fact was about Nathaniel Hawthorne and his ties to the Salem Witch Trials. The Salem Witch Trials and those that were killed will always


Works Cited


Cox, Brad Ph.D. Witch Hunts. March 07, 2004. John Companies. April 20, 2005.



Murray, Kimberly. Author Resources. The History of the Salem Witch Trials (With       Connections to Nathaniel Hawthorne). 2000. April 20, 2005



Nathaniel Hawthorne: Biographical Information. 2005. April 25, 2005.



Salem Witch Trials. 1992. April 20, 2005.



Sutter, Tom. Salem Witchcraft. 2000-2003. April 20, 2005.



Wikipedia. Salem Witch Trials. April 2005. April 20, 2005.



Wikipedia. “Young Goodman Brown.” March 2005. April 20, 2005.


Review of the Information:


1. Brad Cox’s Witch Hunts

             This cite is pretty long but very informative. This cite also tells of certain ‘witch hunts’ that go on today. This cite is a very good cite for information on the first set of witch hunts in Europe. I really enjoyed this cite. It gave dates and pretty detailed numbers of people accused of being a witch and killed for it. I believe that this cite would be more helpful to someone who is needing just a little over view of the European witch hunts.

2. Kimberly Murray’s ….Connections to Nathaniel Hawthorne

            This cite is very short and sweet. It basically tells of Hawthorne and his usage of Puritan beliefs and the history of the Salem Witch Trials within his works. This cite also tells how part of the trial was conducted and what role Nathaniel Hawthorn’s forefather had with the trials. This is a good cite to use when associating Hawthorne to the Salem Witch Trials.

3. Nathaniel Hawthorne: Biographical Information

            This is a great cite to find an overall view of Hawthorne’s life and works. It is a very short cite, but it is also very informative. It does not tell of every little detail of Hawthorne’s life; it just hits the most important aspects of it.

4. Salem Witch Trials

            This is a very informative cite as well. It is actually a paper within an encyclopedia—I believe. It is very detailed and gives bibliography information on the facts that it gives. I really enjoyed this cite because I feel like I really learned something by reading it. It did not have the same old information that all the other cites I saw had. It actually had new and unusual things in its context. This was actually my favorite of all the cites that I looked at.

5. Salem Witch Trials—Wikipedia

            This was also another of my favorite cites. It has a lot of information in it. It is very informative and very lengthy as well. To begin with, it gives an over view of the trials and its aftermath. Then it gives detail reasons for the hysteria, the participants’ names, who the presiding officials and associate magistrates were, and who the afflicted and the accused were. It also gives dates of those of those who were killed. This is a very interesting cite and I enjoyed it very much.

6. Tom Sutter’s Salem Witchcraft

            This is also another lengthy cite. It gives three main factors of that may have started or fueled the trials. It also lists the events or gives a brief description of the trials and its proceedings. This cite also gave a description of the what went on in the aftermath of the Salem Witch Trials. This is a good cite. It was very helpful in my understanding of the Salem Witch Trials.

7. Wikipedia—“Young Goodman Brown”

            This cite is extremely short. It is only a paragraph long; however, it is a good example of how Hawthorne uses his Puritan beliefs and the affects of the Salem Witch Trials in his works.

Analytical Essay:

            The Salem Witch Trials had a significant affect on everything. Many of the laws about witchcraft were changed. The Salem Witch Trials is to the people of Salem like the Holocaust is to the Jewish people. I know that the Holocaust was much more extreme than the Salem Witch Trials which only claimed twenty-five people in all; however, this event is traumatic to its people of today. They have museums, monuments, and several other things of this sort set up in memory and honor of those who were so wrongly convicted. The one significant thing that everyone should get from learning about the Salem Witch Trials is that no one should judge another person and that greed and jealousy can destroy everyone around you.

            The Salem Witch Trials were due to a bunch of teenage girls—that in my opinion—need a good whooping; however, it almost seems as though the Parris the girls’ father and uncle forced them into making up the story that they were possessed. He was probably going to lose his job, he could not keep things under control at his house, and instead of just saying that the girls were spoiled, he made them say that they were possessed so that it would not look bad on his part. Another theory that I agree with is the ergot theory. It is very possible that this did cause the girls to hallucinate and act strangely; however, I do not understand why everyone else did not act the same way if that is the real reason.

            I do not think that we will ever know everything about the Salem Witch Trials, and I believe that there will always be unanswered questions and many theories about what really happened. These trials were very significant in the changing of the laws in Salem and the realization of how Puritan beliefs had gotten out of control.