Ann Putnam in The Crucible

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  • 0:04 Death-Ridden
  • 0:58 Gossip
  • 1:48 Sensationalizing
  • 2:36 Sorrow Gone Bad
  • 3:37 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lauren Boivin

Lauren has taught English at the university level and has a master's degree in literature.

This lesson provides an overview of Ann Putnam in Arthur Miller's 'The Crucible.' Mrs. Putnam doesn't have many lines, but her character gives us some insight into the underpinnings of the Salem Witch Trials.

Death-Ridden

Have you ever known a gossip loving person? Someone who prefers a scandal to a calm day, and is even eager to spread the word even it may cause trouble? You may have known someone like Ann.

Ann Putnam is introduced in Arthur Miller's The Crucible as 'a twisted soul of forty-five, a death-ridden woman, haunted by dreams.' When one is ridden by something, one is dominated by or obsessed with it. Soon after, we learn that Mrs. Putnam has 'laid seven babies unbaptized in the earth.' Clearly, the poor woman has seen much death and it is understandable that she might be somewhat haunted by it after losing seven children as infants.

We aren't told explicitly whether her soul is twisted of its own accord or in reaction to the grief she has endured. There remains some ambiguity throughout the play on this matter, leaving the reader room for conjecture regarding Ann Putnam's character.

Gossip

The opening narration for the play tells us that the 'predilection for minding other people's business was time-honored among the people of Salem.' Ann Putnam certainly seems to be doing her part in upholding this tradition. One of the first things she says upon entering Betty's room is, 'how high did she fly, how high?'

Even after Reverend Parris (Betty's 'father') assures her the girl has not flown at all, Mrs. Putnam answers, 'Why, it's sure she did. Mr. Collins saw her goin' over Ingersoll's barn.' The stage direction further tells us that she is 'very pleased' with this idea.

Shouldn't she be more concerned about the girl's health than she is about scintillating bits of gossip? Ann Putnam's delight in the troubles of others doesn't exactly endear her to the audience, despite our inevitable sympathy for the loss of her children.

Sensationalizing

To go with her love of gossip, Ann Putnam also seems to have some relish for sensationalizing events. We are told that, as she lays ill in bed, Betty covers her ears at the sound of a psalm being sung on the floor below her. Any ordinary person could likely think of several innocent reasons for wanting to drown out the sound of singing while sick in bed, like a headache, perhaps? Or the simple wish for quiet?

But not Mrs. Putnam! No - she decides Betty is covering her ears because she can't bear to hear the name of Jesus because she is possessed by some demon. 'That is a notorious sign of witchcraft afoot,' she declares, 'a prodigious sign.' In addition to allowing a juicy bit of gossip to trump her concern for Betty, Ann Putnam allows her desire for a sensational story to trump any attempt to reach the truth.

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