The Witch Trials. The town of Salem, Massachusetts
The Devil’s Shadow
Time Setting: The Devil’s Shadow by Clifford Lindsey Alderman took place in the
late seventeenth century from 1692-1693. This is the time period that the Salem
Witch Trials took place. The main plot of the story rested on the events
leading up to the Salem Witch Trials, the trials themselves, and the aftermath
of the trials. Detailed accounts of witch executions, the actual trials, and
the events that caused the trials were discussed in the story.
Place Setting: Most of the action in this story took place in Salem,
Massachusetts. This was the birthplace of the witchcraft hysteria and it was
also the actual site of the Salem Witch Trials. The town of Salem,
Massachusetts in the late seventeenth century was a small puritan community that
was largely uneducated and very superstitious. Since many lacked education,
they did not understand many events that happened in their daily lives. Many
things that went wrong in their daily lives would be blamed on witchcraft or
sorcery. Such common things as burnt bread or broken plates would be blamed on
the supernatural. Many people, especially the uneducated, firmly believed in
the existence of witches and warlocks. They believed that such individuals had
the power to perform “black magic” that caused some kind of trouble. Every time
something bad happened they would blame it on witches and witchcraft.
Main Characters: One of the main characters in this story was Tituba, an
African slave woman from Barbados. She was purchased in Barbados by a merchant
named Samuel Parris. She lived in Barbados until Samuel Parris brought her to
Salem to work as his servant. She was known to practice Obeah, an African cult
sorcery. People who performed or practiced Obeah were said to be able to
predict the future, make magical charms, and drive away evil spirits. Tituba
was accused of teaching witchcraft to a small group of girls in Salem.
Samuel Parris, another main character in this story, was a merchant who
attended Harvard University. He was the owner of Tituba and her husband. He
had studied to become a minister before he left Harvard. He was a business man
who traded slaves, sugar, and rum in Barbados. Things began to not work out for
him when he started making less and less money. He gave up his career as a
merchant in 1689 and moved to Salem to become a minister.
Other main characters in this story include the girls that were taught
witchcraft by Tituba, the judges in the courtroom, and the men and women who
were accused of witchcraft.
Two Important Events: One important event in this story was when the hysterical
girls are assumed to have been influenced by Tituba’s witchcraft. This event
fit into the story because it triggered the witchcraft hysteria that followed it.
Many people suddenly became accused after the girls became associated with
Tituba and witchcraft. This event gave a good illustration of life in the late
seventeenth century by showing how paranoid people were about the presence of
witchcraft in their society. They were ready to believe that people were
witches at the drop of a hat, and because of this, they unjustly accused and
murdered hundreds of people. This can be seen as the starting point of the
witchcraft hysteria in Salem that killed so many people.
Another important event in this story was when everything began to get
out of control and people were being accused of witchcraft by the dozens. It
became a choice on whether or not you were going to accuse someone else in order
to save yourself. People that were accused just accused different people in
order to save themselves from hanging. Soon, everyone was accusing everyone
else, and the trials had gone into utter chaos. This changed the course of
history because it made people realize how pointless the while witchcraft
hysteria really was. It was also the first step towards the end of the hysteria.
Class Differences in Society: By reading this story, I learned about the class
differences in the society of Salem in the late seventeenth century. The fact
that all of the blame was put on an African American slave woman from the start
shows that the higher class people tended to blame the lower class people for
their problems. Also, people accused of witchcraft instantly became looked down
on in society. This relates to the fact that people tended to accuse people
that were already looked down on by society in order to lend credibility to
their accusation. All of these things have helped me to realize that class
differences are evident in every society. It has also led me to believe that
class differences significantly affect the outcome of many historical events.