The Witchcraft of Salem Village
Stories of magic, superstition, and witchcraft were strictly forbidden in the little town of Salem Village. But a group of young girls ignored those rules, spellbound by the tales told by a woman named Tituba. When questioned about their activities, the terrified girls set off a whirlwind of controversy as they accused townsperson after townsperson of being witches. Author Shirley Jackson examines in careful detail this horrifying true story of accusations, trials, and executions that shook a community to its foundations.
The curriculet is being added to your library
1. The Uneasiness of Salem Village
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently. Try this now to look up the word "surmount."
Indian attacks were a very real threat to the colonists. It is suspected that Indians took out the entire Roanoke Colony in what is now North Carolina. (This annotation contains an image)
Banishment or death was the punishment for difference of opinion over
The purpose of this paragraph is to outline the hardships and growing unease facing the settlers in Massachusetts that allowed for the accusations of witchcraft to unleash such hysteria.
Cotton Mather was an influential Puritan minister. (This annotation contains an image)
What do you think of Mather's personal "battles with the devil"? How do you think Mather would be received in today's society? Would he still be revered?
As you read, think about how the conditions listed in the highlighted paragraph contributed to the witch hunts.
The author would likely agree that ______________ led to the Salem Witch Trials.
2. The Devil Comes Closer
Below is a sketch of the young girls with Tituba. (This annotation contains an image)
The purpose of this paragraph is to tell readers
Ann Putnam became one of the main accusers. Here she is portrayed as a bully who frightened the other girls. Can you see how this aspect of her personality could have lent itself to making dangerous accusations? (This annotation contains an image)
What do you think is the matter with Elizabeth? Do you think it is witchcraft, religious guilt and fear, or something else entirely?
One of the central ideas of this book is the way in which fear, when gone unchecked, can wreak widespread havoc in a community. Watch how quickly the repercussions of this diagnosis of witchcraft by the doctor spreads through the community.
Why does the author contest that the "diagnosis of witchcraft had been a lucky thing for the girls"?
In just one day the number of girls claiming to be tortured by witches in the village of Salem has gone from zero to nine!
"He told them how one person could, with the devil's help, demolish a whole town."Do you think this a true statement? Can one person do that much damage alone? Why or why not?
It is clear for us to see that the girls are manipulating the grown-ups here. Why do you think the grown-ups can't see this?
Why was Sarah Goode an easy target for the girls?
Are you, like the historians, surprised that everything got out of hand so quickly?
The people of Salem were both frightened and
What is your personal theory about what got into the girls?
3. A Black Man from Boston
What are your thoughts on the ways in which witchcraft was legally proven?
It is ironic that the people of Salem thought the handling of witches in Europe to be barbaric when they are willing to sentence a woman to death based on the testimony of a young girl.
The author includes quotation marks around the word "fair" describing the trial to show
Below is an artist rendering of one of the famous courtroom fits the girls put on. (This annotation contains an image)
Who does Sarah Goode implicate?
The townspeople are so superstitious and steadfast in their accusations that Sarah Osburn begins to doubt herself some.
Watch the clip below of Tituba's confession from the movie The Crucible, based on the famous play by Arthur Miller on the Salem Witch Trials. Keep this video in mind as you read on. (This annotation contains a video)
How is Tituba's confession in the video different from the book? Which version do you think is closer to the truth? Why?
It seems as if the girls are more than happy to agree with Tituba's accusations. Why do you think this is?
Note the use of imagery in the highlighted selection. The author uses imagery to help readers visualize what it was like to be in the courtroom. Watch the video below on imagery and look for more examples as you read. (This annotation contains a video)
How does the highlighted passage support the central idea of fear being a dangerous force?
What do you think of these claims? Does that sound like a logical way to prove guilt?
4. Great Noises by the Afflicted
Based on the evidence given in the highlighted selection, we can infer that Martha Corey was
A coven is a term for a group of witches who meets regularly. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Martha Corey ask the judges to let her pray?
How are the children manipulating the atmosphere in the courtroom here?
Why is Martha Corey laughing? Is it to spite the judge?
What is different about Rebecca Nurse's trial?
We have now seen an elderly woman sent to prison followed by a five-year old. Could you imagine this happening today?
Which hallmark of our legal system do Mr. Lawson's words go against?
What is the author insinuating is the real reason why Sarah Cloyse was arrested?
5. The Road to Gallows Hill
What caused things to get so out of hand? Answer using both evidence from the text and your own opinion.
The meeting house in which the trials took place has been recreated and is now a popular tourist attraction in Salem. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following statements would the author most likely agree with?
Mary finds herself conflicted because when she denounces the behavior of the other girls, she leaves herself open to being accused of witchcraft.
What does the author mean by "the accusations began to aim higher"?
Watch the short video below on a recent theory regarding the cause of the Salem Witch Trials then answer the following question. (This annotation contains a video)
Do you think this new theory of the girls being contaminated by ergot is sound? Do you think the author of this text would agree with this theory? Why or why not?
Below is an image of Robert Calef, one of the voices speaking out against the witch hunts. (This annotation contains an image)
"The heart of the witchcraft conspiracy had been captured" is an example of
The jury voted to acquit elderly Rebecca Nurse, but the judges coerced them to change their verdict.
How does Giles Corey become a sort of folk hero during the trials?
Two of the girls went to Andover and declared every woman brought in front of them to be witches! The magistrate signed forty warrants that day based solely on the testimony of the girls.
6. The Devil Departs
The turning point in the trials occurs when
Even with the trials over, the effects would linger on. (This annotation contains an image)
What exactly does Ann confess to? Summarize her confession in your own words.
Here is an image of Gallows Hill, where the witches were hanged. (This annotation contains an image)
In order to understand the fervor that infected Salem, we must understand the _________________ of witch hunts that preceded it.
Watch the video below on the context of Arthur Miller's play The Crucible about the Salem Witch Trials. (This annotation contains a video)
How does Arthur Miller use the Salem Witch Trials as an allegory for McCarthyism in his play The Crucible? Is there anything else you can think of that the Trials would be a good allegory for?
Do you think the events surrounding the Witch Trials make more sense when reading that Puritans thought the devil was a personal enemy of theirs?