movie, The Crucible, was derived entirely from the book entitled, Salem Possessed: the Social Origins of Witchcraft by Paul S. Boyer, with only a few differences, owing to technical limitations in movie production. The movie had to reduce the number of characters of the books in order to produce it on cinema. Time lapses were shortened, due again to cinematic limitations in presenting the events. Furthermore, the nature of the charges against Giles Corey was not identical. In the book, he is charged with contempt of court for refusing to plead either innocent or guilty. In the movie, he is charged with contempt for refusing to name the person who told him about Thomas Putnam's intent to buy land by means of false accusation. And while Abigail Williams is presented as an 11-year-old girl in the book, she is 17 years in the movie in order to justify or make credible her being the lust object of John Proctor.
In all other aspects, details and views, the movie and the book are identical. They both talk about the same people: the "afflicted" girls Betty Parris, Abigail Williams, Tituba, Ann Putnam, John Proctor and his wife Elizabeth, Mary Wolcott, Samuel Parris, Judge Danforth, Giles Corey, and many others. The setting was Salem Village in Massachusetts in 1692. Both discuss the events that led to the Salem witch trials that killed 19 by hanging and one by crushing.
Both the movie and the book begin by stressing that the community was devoted to the service of God, as it existed during Puritanical times. In this Village lived young girls who felt bored with their elders' stringent ways and tried something more exciting, which then was also in fashion: fortune-telling, magic and spiritism. That was January in 1692. One of the girls was the 9-year-old daughter of Reverend Samuel Parris' daughter, while another was his niece, 11 (or 17-) -year-old niece, Abigail Williams, an orphan. These girls wanted to find out who their husband would be and these men's occupations. Instead of the future, they saw "a specter in the likeness of a coffin." (qtd. In Boyer 5 par 2).From thereon, these girls showed signs of disturbance, which the physician called in by Rev. Parris concluded was caused by witchcraft, then a capital offense. Finger-pointing finally led to Tituba, a slave girl from Barbados in the Caribbean, and later to a beggar, Sarah Good; and to a sickly old woman, Sarah Osborne. These three were jailed. But instead of ending the trouble, the witch trials simply began.
The reason why is clearer in the book because it is longer, had more characters and told more events than the movie. The book says that an outbreak of small pox, the revocation of the Massachusetts Bay Colony charter by Charles II and frequent Indian attacks were perceived by the early Puritans as God's punishment for the practice of witchcraft in their Village. And so they believed that they had to clean the Village up of all witches to appease His anger.
That March, one of the girls, Ann Putnam, charged Martha Corey, a regular bur unpopular churchgoer, of witchcraft. She - and the other troubled young girls - did the same to a kind and old lady, Rebecca Nurse, then 71 years old, whom they managed to get hanged with four other women on Gallows Hill that July. These four other women were Sarah Good, Sarah Wilds, Elizabeth How, and Susannah Martin.
Both the movie and the book establish that Abigail Williams, one of the afflicted girls, had an affair with a 60-year-old married farmer and tavern owner, John Proctor. He insisted that the girls' misbehavior could be easily corrected by harsh discipline. The movie emphasizes Abigail's desire for him and for revenge in accusing John's wife, Elizabeth, of witchcraft. John, instead of Elizabeth, was hanged, and Elizabeth was freed because she was pregnant. Although not spared, Rev. George Burroughs' perfect praying of the Lord's Prayer; Giles Corey's refusal to stand trial and Mary Easty's letter to the ministers and judges about their spilling "innocent blood" led to the gradual disappearance of public support for the witch trials. So that that October, Governor Phips suspended arrests on suspected witches and wizards and later dissolved the Court of Oyer and Terminer that tried, convicted and prosecuted the suspects.
Rather than genuine witchcraft or evil magic, historic researches on these witch trials reveal social, political and economic forces as the motivations behind, and true causes of, the spread of the witch craze in the colonies. For one, Salem Town and Salem Village had distinct occupations: Salem town was in the professions, such as inn-keeping, pottery, sawmill operation and shoemaking and gaining wealth though the then new economic order called capitalism. Salem Village, on the other hand, remained in the farm. The Villagers wanted to have their own church, which was necessary for the break they wanted to have from the Puritans, but which Salem town refused them. The Villages saw the town people grow richer, greedier and less devoted to the community.
Reverend Parris' appointment as the Village minister was welcomed by those who wanted the Village to be politically and economically separate from the Town, but resented by Villagers who did not favor the separation. The separatists formed a congregation, led by the Putnams, and placed Reverend Parris on top of it. Reverend Parris received a modest salary, the use of a house and free firewood and more, such as the title and deed to the parsonage and the land that surrounded it. Those against the separation focused their anger at Reverend Parris and showed it by not attending worship at the official place and by refusing to pay their local taxes. These taxes in turn paid the minister's salary and bought his free firewood.
In October, 1691, a new Salem Village committee got elected that was composed of Reverend Parris' opponents. His salary and the legality of his ownership of the minister's house and property were questioned, and this created apprehension among the Putnams about losing Parris and Parris' apprehension about supporting his family. Then the witchcraft craze broke out, bringing in John Hawthorne and Jonathan Corwin as judges from Salem town to try the cases, which had Parris' daughter Betty as one of the witnesses to the three first accused (Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne and Tituba). Due to pressure, Parris' slave girl, Tituba "confessed" to being a witch and implicating others who were executed instead of herself. Another girl, Ann Putname accused others -Martha Corey, the elderly Rebecca Nurse, and the minister George Burroughs - to their death.
It was no trouble making those accusations: Sarah Osborne was an elderly who had failed to go to church for more than a year, which was a sin to the Puritans. Accusing her of witchcraft was easy to do. Sarah Good, on the other hand, was a homeless beggar, who wandered from door to door, and would utter strange invectives if she was not given food. The people at the time believed that her words were curses that killed their animals.
Martha Corey was charged with witchcraft and deprived of her reputation because she was not well-liked in the Village. She spoke her opinions out and gave birth to an illegitimate child whom she kept with her and her second husband. Her church attendance was perfect, but these social violations negated that achievement. It was their way of "correcting" her.
Rebecca Nurse's case was a strange and cruel one. She was 71 years old, gentle and generous and certainly well-liked by the community. But when Ann Putnam and the other girls said that her (Rebecca's) ghost would float into their rooms at night, "pinched and tortured them" (Sutter 2002), Rebecca was shocked, for she…