When talking about witch hunts, generally the Salem witch trials come to mind, more specifically the novel, The Crucible. These trials, where all evidence was completely falsified, led to the executions of 19 people, and exposed the real motives of the Puritan people. While various factors play a role in the Salem witch hunt, vengeance is the key factor driving the characters to accuse and condemn their neighbors.
The plot of The Crucible, is mainly the doing of one Abigail Williams, who uses the trial to exact her revenge on those who she thinks have wronged her. The first being Tituba, her uncle’s slave. Vengeance drove Abigail to accuse Tituba of witchcraft, and bewitching her cousin Betty Parris, all because Tituba advises Abigail against drinking the bird blood during the ceremony in the woods, and not to wish for the death of Elizabeth Proctor.
She then goes on to accuse Elizabeth Proctor, her original target, solely because Abigail loves Elizabeth’s husband John. Believing John stills loves her, going as far as to say, “You loved me, John Proctor, and whatever sin it is, you love me yet!”, she plans to remove Elizabeth from the picture to get to John. The witchcraft accusations are her way of getting revenge on Elizabeth from being with the man she loves.
Mr. and Mrs. Putnam, believing their higher status in Salem makes them better than their fellow town goers, use the trials to settle their personal grudges. The two want to ensure their high status in the community, and anyone that could hurt their status has to be taken out. Thomas Putnam first suggests that Sarah Good and Goody Osbourne, two local outcasts who he may have seen as a stain on Salem compared to his high status family, are witches.
His wife then backs up this accusation, by adding that Goody Osbourne was the midwife to three of her now deceased children, suggesting their children died because of Goody’s supernatural connections. Their next victim, George Jacobs, refused to give his land to Putnam, who then got his daughter, Ruth, to condemn the old man to death, meaning Jacobs’ land is then forfeited, leaving it for the taking. The Putnams are driven by vengeance to dispose of the town “trash”, and their neighbors, promoting the trials to keep this revenge outlet alive.
Vengeance drives Mary Warren to turn on John Proctor, who, being her current employer, attempts to keep Mary away from the trial. But then insists Mary tell the court the truth about the trials, that they are completely fake, a farce created by the girls. Mary is completely against this. Using her newfound power to sentence people to punishment for witchcraft, she accuses John of being in league with the Devil. Mary seeks retribution for his attempt at control over her life, letting it consume her, ruining John’s life.
While witch hunts may seem like a thing of the past, they are still a very real thing happening in the world today. Just last year, a witch hunt began in Tanzania for the homosexual and transgender population. While this may not seem as an act of vengeance, the man in charge of it all, Paul Makonda, regional commissioner for Tanzania’s main city of Dar es Salaam, is enforcing it purely out of hatred for the LGBTQ+ community. The reinforcement of Tanzania’s law against homosexuality, which states that no man or woman can participate in homosexual activities, has been sparked in recent years, Makonda taking it to new heights.
Hatred and vengeance go hand in hand, vengeance being a way of acting upon hatred. Not only are they arresting suspected homosexuals, who have been turned in by other members of the community, but they also suspended HIV/AIDS prevention programs for gay men, risking the health of all gay men and some transgender individuals. Makonda is more than comfortable with putting members of his community in danger, calling them out for something they may or may not be.
Vengeance is an ugly thing, and it is truly terrible in the context of The Crucible, being a factor behind the death of nineteen men and women. Nowadays, it factors into the arrest of homosexuals in Tanzania, both instances hurting the wellbeing of a portion of the population. Retribution is fickle, leading people to do crazy things, like putting their neighbors to death.