Character Profile- Mr. and Mrs. Putnam


Opening Impression:

When Mrs. Putnam is introduced for the first time, she is described as “a twisted soul of forty-five, a death-ridden woman, haunted by dreams”, which is not exactly what you would call an encouraging description. Through her opening lines, we can easily see that Mrs. Putnam is a very manipulative and assertive woman, who believes in witchcraft, as she instantly believes that Betty’s problem has been caused by witchcraft. As far as Mr. Putnam is concerned, although his introductive description states “a well-to-do, hard-handed landowner, near fifty”, it does not tell us much about him. However, his description in page 22, he is called “vindictive”, instantly revealing more about his character. The line “so many accusations against people are in the handwriting of Thomas Putnam” reveals that he is more similar to his wife than we first expected.


Quotations & Analysis:





“Full of breath, shiny eyed”


Mrs. Putnam: “It is a marvel. It is surely a stroke of hell upon you”

This describes Mrs. Putnam’s entrance to the room when they are discussing Betty and the possibility of witchcraft. This shows that she enjoys gossiping, however, she condemns singing which indicates hypocrisy.


Her first speech signifies the way Mrs. Putnam seems to enjoy other’s suffering.



“How high did she fly? How High?”

By saying “How high did she fly?”, she already assumes that the cause of the affliction is witch craft. Even though it may seem ridiculous in today’s time, she actually manages to convince the people in the house that this was caused by witchcraft, showing two things:

·         Mrs. Putnam is intent in starting up rumors, and is very manipulative.

·         By people actually believing her, the author is ridiculing the people of the Salem witch hunt, and the communist witch hunt for being brain-washed so easily.



“Why, it’s sure she did. Mr. Collins saw her goin’ over Ingersoll’s barn, and come down light as bird, he says!”

By mentioning Mr. Collins, it backs up her argument that it is witchcraft which has caused the ailment. This shows what a conniving character Mrs. Putnam is, as it is likely that Mr. Collins didn’t actually see anything.



[with vicious certainty]: “I’d not call it sick, the Devil’s touch is heavier than sick. It’s death, y’know, it’s death drivin’ into them, forked and hoofed”.

 This quote shows that Mrs. Putnam seems to be very knowledgeable about this subject, about the Devil and Death, accentuating her devilish, conniving character.



Mrs. Putnam: “Her soul is taken, surely”

Here, Mrs. Putnam believes that “it’s death driving into them”, referring to “the devil’s touch” and witchcraft that has ultimately caused their daughter Ruth to become ill. Once again we can see the speed with which people leap to the conclusion that witchcraft is to blame here. Perhaps reflecting the speed with which people in modern America jumped to Communism as an explanation of every problem or social ill.


Mrs. Putnam’s readiness to believe would be laughable were the consequences not so serious



Mr. Putnam: “No witchcraft! Now look you, Mr. Parris - ”

The mention of there being “no element of witchcraft here” angers Mr. Putnam, and slowly we see his true characteristics as being that of vindictive and bitter. This is clear because of his developing plan to be capable of purchasing one’s land when executed for witchcraft.



[His wife’s brother-in-law, James Bayley, had been turned down as a minister of Salem]


“He undoubtedly felt it poor payment that the village should so blatantly disregard his candidate”

Mrs. Putnam’s brother-in-law (Mr. Putnam’s choice for Minister) was not elected. This shows the jealousy and spite of the Putnams as both of them seek vengeance for the fact that his (Mr. Putnam’s) candidate was not chosen to be Minister and she (Mrs. Putnam) has lost many babies.


In addition they have a very accusatory tone of voice when talking. Mr. Putnam was one of the main ‘leaders’ who began accusing people of witchcraft outside of the group (including the girls).



[So it is not surprising to find that so many accusations against people… handwriting of Thomas Putnam]”

This quotation further accentuates Mr. Putnam’s character as being vengeful, as “it is not surprising”. The fact that he is often “found as a witness corroborating the supernatural testimony” depicts his ongoing will to accuse the innocent of witchcraft for land purchasing. Miller’s statement of this fact with no comment forces the reader to work out Miller’s implied point – that Putnam is killing people for their land – perhaps this reflects the way in which the audience are meant to work out how the moral of Miller’s play applies to contemporary America



Mrs. Putnam: “I take it on my soul, but who else may surely tell us what person murdered my babies?”

Mrs. Putnam tells Parris that she sees her Ruth “turning strange”, therefore states that the best would be to send her to Tituba, who according to her, “knows how to speak to the dead”. Whether this is true or not, Parris is shocked as it is “a formidable sin to conjure up the dead!” Here we see the irony that although characters later in the play are doomed when they are accused of witchcraft, others (perhaps those of a higher status or in positions of influence) can conjure the Devil with impunity. Alternatively, perhaps this shows that before the hysteria of the witch hunt, people regularly communicated with the Devil just as they did with God but that once the hysteria had taken hold of the village this relatively normal activity became outlawed and regarded as a sin worthy the punishment of death



“You are not undone! Let you take hold here. Wait for no one to charge you- declare it yourself. You have discovered witchcraft.”

In this quote, we see Mr. Putnam as, just like his wife, a very assertive and manipulative character, as he continuous to try to persuade Parris that Betty’s condition is due to the devil. Using imperatives, it accentuates his seemingly certain tone, making him very persuasive and powerful.



"That is a notorious sign of witchcraft afoot, Goody Nurse, a prodigious sign!"


Once again, just like in the previous quotation, Mr. Putnam is perceived as a very certain and powerful character. By repeating the word “sign”, it strengthens his argument of witchcraft, as it seems as if it happens to all people afflicted with witchcraft (it happened to people previously). Moreover, words such as notorious and prodigious makes him sound very knowledgeable, thus further increasing his persuasiveness.



“This woman must be hanged! She must be taken and hanged!”


This has an accusing tone which portrays Mr. Putnam as malicious, spiteful and vicious. In addition he is ambitious (in a sense that she wants this woman to be hanged, and possibly other women as well).



“Her soul seems flown away…”


This is Mrs. Putnam talking about Betty. She creates more tension and begins the build up to the later hysteria that we see in the play as Mrs. Putnam creates havoc by encouraging ideas such as her soul flying away. This may portray her as narrow-minded (as she does not listen to other views) or that she is concerned about self-image (following the majority, not standing out)



“This is no silly season… My Ruth is bewildered”


This perhaps indicates her narrow-mindedness as she does not consider other, common sense, ideas - such as Ruth not being hungry, and thus not eating or that the ‘silly season’ is just a phase that all kids go through.



Mr. Putnam: “Why aren’t you home? Who’s with Ruth?”

The apparent division in class between servant and master is clear here, as Mr. Putnam speaks to Mercy Lewis in a disregarding manner. His character is of demanding, however is concerned about his daughter.



Mrs. Putnam: “Mark it for a sign! Mark it!”

Mrs. Putnam’s use of exclamation marks and repetition here illustrates her desperation to persuade others to believe in witchcraft therefore resulting in others being accused of it. Her constant remarks about the devil and that people of Salem being cursed, further accentuates her strong belief.



Mr. Putnam: “he have confessed it now!”

When speaking to Proctor, Putnam hurriedly says that he has confessed that he wishes to break with the Church. His urgent tone demonstrates how he is trying his hardest to attack others and bring them into disrepute. The fact that we know that Proctor is joking and only frustrated by the fact that he sees ‘no light of goodness’ in Parris only makes Putnam’s eagerness here seem more ridiculous. At this point in the play the audience surely expects the level headed Proctor and Rebecca Nurse to win out against the obviously empty claims of the Putnams. The fact that they don’t underlines the sense of tragedy as something that could so easily have been avoided was not.



Proctor: “your grandfather had a habit of willing land that never belonged to him, if I may say it plain.”

As Proctor is speaking to Putnam, he immediately cuts him off by stating that his grandfather purchased land that never belonged to him, ultimately depicting how Proctor suggests the similarity between family members. Although Putnam believes that “he had no right to sell it” – Proctor obviously sees through this and plainly says what he believes is true, “if I may say it plain.” His confidence and straightforward manner is evident here.



Mrs. Putnam: [unable to wait] “Mr. Parris’s slave has knowledge of conjurin’, sir.”


Mrs. Putnam is “unable to wait”, emphasizing her eagerness to be part of this devilish scandal.



Mrs. Putnam: [softly] “Aye. [Her voice breaks, she looks up at him… All wait avidly]”

Mrs. Putnam’s passive nature throughout this quotation depict how the fact that her children had been “seven dead in childbirth”, as Hale states, truly did affect her. Moreover, because she “looks up at him” could suggest that she wants him to feel sympathy of some sort towards her at this point.



Mrs. Putnam: “My baby’s blood?”

Here Mrs. Putnam seems to be enjoying the scandal in several ways, as Abigail tells them that Tituba “makes [her] drink blood!” The opportunity to blame someone else for the death of her 7 children is too tempting here, therefore immediately refers to them, further showing her desperation.





Roll in the Play:

From Act one, it is clear that both Mr. and Mrs. Putnam serve a clear purpose in the play, that is being the creators of the paranoia regarding witchcraft, as they are convinced that the affliction is caused by witchcraft. Even though they themselves do not name people as being witches, they can be viewed as the spark of the witch hunt fire.