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The Crucible by Arthur Miller - Barron's Booknotes
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A psalm is being sung below, and suddenly Betty starts
screaming. Her father rushes in, followed by the Putnams,
Rebecca Nurse, and an old farmer named Giles Corey. Parris is
terrified: it seems as if Betty cannot bear to hear the Lord's
name. The rest look on with curiosity, all of them believing this
to be a "prodigious sign" that witchcraft is afoot. All except
Rebecca Nurse. She goes over and merely stands beside the bed,
which miraculously calms Betty down. Once again it seems as if
the whole thing might just blow over, and for a moment
everything is calm.

But the Putnams are not convinced by Rebecca's soothing
explanations. They don't believe it's God's will that all
Rebecca's children should survive, while all of their own wither
on the night of their birth. John Proctor sides with Rebecca, and
wants to know why Parris sent for Reverend Hale before calling
a town meeting. At this point, a full-blown squabble breaks out,
and we get to see at first hand the "contention" in the town that
Reverend Parris complained about in the first scene. Proctor
won't come to church because Parris hardly mentions God
anymore. Parris wants the congregation to give him money for
firewood, as well as a deed to his house. And everybody argues
over who owns what land.

NOTE: As we saw in The Author and His Times section of this
guide, land was already a sore point with the Puritans of Salem.
Arthur Miller brings it up here because it will play such a
horrible part in the nightmare to come. We will find out that
Thomas Putnam in particular stands to gain quite a bit by
having his neighbors cried out as witches. And we will also see
Giles Corey, who seems like such a comical character now, go
to incredible lengths to keep his land from being taken from
him. The question of witchcraft will be inseparable from the
question of land ownership from beginning to end.

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The Crucible by Arthur Miller - Barron's Booknotes

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