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Comparing Salem Possessed by Paul Boyer, The Story of the Salem Witch Trials by Bryan Le Beau, and Devil in the Shape of a Woman by Carol Karlsen

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Comparing "Salem Possessed" by Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, "The Story of the Salem Witch Trials" by Bryan Le Beau, and "The Devil in the Shape of a Woman" by Carol Karlsen

The Salem Witch Trials of 1692 spread just about as fast as the Black Plague. This epidemic caused chaos among neighbors in a community. The chronology of events describes an awful time for colonists from June 10th to September 22nd of that year. The books "Salem Possessed" by Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, "The Story of the Salem Witch Trials" by Bryan Le Beau, and "The Devil in the Shape of a Woman" by Carol Karlsen all describe these events and provide varying explanations for the epidemic that plagued Salem Village. This review will look at the facts that surrounded the trials and then using those facts will look at the cause stated in each book for the hysteria to compare and contrast with one another.

The trials themselves began following an instance involving Betty Parris, Abigail Williams, and Ann Putnam, 3 young girls in the village. (Dufour, 248) The girls were caught performing fortune-telling rituals in the woods outside the village. The claimed at the time that they were trying to find information on the type of man that would be most suitable for them to marry. Soon after this event the girls began to experience hysterical type fits. These fits prompted Reverend Samuel Parris, the father of Betty Parris, to call on authorities to find an explanation for the fits. The explanation they found was very simple: witchcraft.

As the months went on more girls began to experience the same sort of events. It was only after intense questioning that the girls revealed the names of those afflicting them: Sarah Osborne, Sarah Good...


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... arguments and sufficient evidence to back it up. The remaining problem lies in the fact that there are no survivors to tell the accurate and unbiased story, if such a story exists. In 1692 Salem Village got its "15 minutes of fame" and proved to people the extents humans will go to for the sake of conflict and religion. It should teach a lesson every human being needs to learn, the smallest incident can lead to hysteria of epidemic proportions.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Boyer, Paul, and Stephen Nissenbaum. Salem Possessed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974.

Dufour, Ronald P. Colonial America. Minneapolis, MN: West Publishing Company, 1994.

Karlsen, Carol F. The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial America. New York: W.W.Norton & Co., 1987.

Le Beau, Bryan F. The Story of the Salem Witch Trials. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1998.


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