“Salem Possessed in Retrospect,”
By Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum
An early handwritten draft of the Pilgrim’s Progress discussion found in revised (but recognizable) form on page 213 of Salem Possessed. This passage explores the lure of material success that plagued the same Salem Village Puritans who accused others of selling their souls to the devil: “As the witchcraft outbreak gained momentum, the accusers were thus compelled to face the possibility that they were themselves being transformed by the forces of change that were buffeting Salem Village” (Boyer and Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed, 214). In the following retrospective essay, the authors suggest that this kind of historical and psychological reasoning offers a rejoinder to those who would reduce the argument of Salem Possessed to tax lists or lines on a map.