The book according to Norton is “an exploration of the history of the frontier warfare and its impact on the collective mentalite of the entire region (5). ” It accounts for a possible link between witchcraft and war. The book aims to chronicle the 1692 witchcraft crisis not in modern terminology but on seventeenth-century terms in such a way that readers will fully understand the events in the same way as those who experienced it first hand comprehended it. Her account is not that of a metanarrative but a day-to-day account of the lives of the people of Salem during the period.
It is important to note that in order for the readers to attain this kind of understanding one has to be aware of the following factors: (1) the worldview of seventeenth-century Puritan New England that believes that “visible and invisible realms coexisted and often intersected” which includes the existence of witches to account for any inexplicable event that arises within the community, and (2) the way it developed over times described by Norton as “burgeoning crisis as people lived through it” that accounted for the daily and weekly whereabouts of the people in the community (Norton 5-7). The book also emphasized the uniqueness of the Salem trial over any other witchcraft trials in New England (Norton 8). At the onset, she aimed to give an account of the witchcraft crisis in a feminist perspective but along the course of the research, she detoured into the discussion of the relation of the war to the crisis most specifically the King Phillips War, the King William’s War, and the Second Indian War.
Instead of just delving into the happenings within the vicinity of Salem, her chronicles stretched from Salem to Essex Country to Connecticut to Hudson River valleys and to the Maine Coast (Norton 10). Norton started the book with the description of the Salem Village and the alleged bewitching of the Reverend Parris’ daughter and niece. It was a tragedy that befell the family that they weren’t able to figure how to cure the sufferings of the children. The sole physician in Salem Village concluded that “the girls were under evil hands (Norton 19). The first that was accused was Tituba, an Indian slave of Reverend Parris that was actually pinpointed by the children as their tormentor. Norton made a connection between the fact that the first accused was an Indian and the raid in York. The next accused were two women that lived in Salem for years but were never born there. These are Sara Good and Sarah Osbourne. By mid-January to March, there were additional accounts of mysterious afflictions among daughters and sons of pious families in which physicians diagnosed as witchcraft.
Salem Village believed that witches and not Satan caused these afflictions. There were a number of accused that were prosecuted and imprisoned. In addition to the first two accused, Martha Corey and Rebecca Nurse that made them five plus two more, all of them are women (Norton 49-54). It was the duty of the New England’s magistrates to try the cases of witchcraft charges tried against the accused. The judges recognized the existence of witches but they were careful enough to provide a legally accepted way of proving the guilt of each accused.
They did the best they could to render a proper judgment for them to free themselves from the responsibility and impunity of causing New England’s present predicaments of war and witchcraft which they according to the Massachusetts’ beliefs are both punishments from God (Norton 295- 299). Norton traced that before the afflictions were rampant among the inhabitants of Salem, there were already attacks in Cocheco, New Hampshire, Albany, Salmon, Casco Bay, York, and Maine from French and Indian forces.
A lot of Englishmen from these areas fled to Essex to take refuge with their relatives or to become servants. During the Second Indian War, the colonist had difficulty penetrating the area because of the alleged witchcraft. There happened a lot of witch prosecution to compensate for the inability of the society to suppressed and prosecute the war against the French and the Indians. Norton attributed the ‘fits’ of the victims as a consequence of the inhabitant’s experienced horrors and traumas from the attacks of the wars than anything else.
She maintained that the wars contributed to the Salem Witchcraft Crisis as indicated by the identities of the accused as Indians and/or non-native inhabitants of the community. Their failure to suppressed attacks of the Indians made the community affairs worst that to attribute their predicaments to witchcraft would make it easier to resolve. As a consequence, they prosecuted too many accused witches so as to give the community some assurance to move on with their lives despite the ongoing war (Norton 301).