The Mystery of Salem: A Study of Literature and Theories
Mannion, Laura M.
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When looking into the historical and sensational accounts surrounding the Salem witch trials, it can be seen from the start that there is an aura of mystery surrounding them. The facts found in records remaining from the trials are over three hundred years old and difficult both to interpret and believe. The theories for the actual causes of the hysteria, in turn, are for the most part merely speculative. Despite all of the research that has gone into the subject, as modem day interpreters we know relatively little about the time period, and we still cannot help but wonder how such a terrible tragedy could have occurred amidst the sobering climate of Puritan times. Yet for a topic that is so seemingly out of our grasp, it has received more than its fair share of attention. What is it about the Salem witch trials that make it such an engaging mystery? Perhaps the draw to the subject is obvious. Few episodes in history can compete with the witch trials for dramatic appeal. The entire chain of events from beginning to end could not have been more fascinating had a playwright written the story. Such tales of magic, deceit, and death simply do not show up very frequently in our history books, especially not in early American history. The events of 1692 set the stage for over three hundred years of interest. The two areas where the Salem witch trials have received the most attention have been the fields of the social sciences and literature. Both methods of studying the witch trials have provided interesting interpretations of this engaging mystery, whether in the form of a dissertation or a novel. For these scientists and authors, the witch trials have become a lifelong fascination, an artifact waiting to be uncovered. It is through their research and creativity that we are given the opportunity to glimpse briefly into an ancient world, and to explore the scenery and plot that has fascinated the modem world for three hundred years.