Witch-Hunt: Mysteries of the Salem Witch Trials by Marc Aronson

Bibliographic Citation: Aronson, Marc. Witch-Hunt: Mysteries of the Salem Witch Trials. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2003. 272p. ISBN: 978-0-68984-8643.

Awards/Selection Lists:

Publisher’s Weekly starred review

Author’s Website:

http://www.marcaronson.com/

Annotation:

Revealing Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 to be a town divided, author and historian Marc Aronson explores the ways in which the environment at the time could have resulted in the infamous witch trials.

Personal Reaction:

In Witch-Hunt: Mysteries of the Salem Witch Trials, Marc Aronson attempts to make sense of the events that took place in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. Aronson recognizes that there are many ways to interpret the trials that resulted in the execution of nineteen by hanging, exposing readers to most of these theories. Discussing everything from the idea that there actually werereal witches in Salem to the possibility of wheat rot poisoning the accusers and causing their hallucinations, Aronson ultimately discredits much of what readers previously knew to be “true.”

In order to unravel the mysteries of the infamous witch trials, Aronson explores the larger, complicated world of Salem, Massachusetts as a whole. The story of Salem in 1692 is one of a community divided. Salem had split into Salem Town and Salem Village and tension developed between merchants and farmers. This division, combined with the pressure to be “good” Puritans, Aronson argues, provided the ideal climate for the trials to occur. However, though the author provides extensive historical context and discounts many prevalent theories, he also raises many questions.

As he did in If Stones Could Speak, Aronson challenges readers to inquire beyond what they had previously accepted to be true. Equating America’s reaction to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 to the events in Salem, the author encourages readers to examine the way in which they experience the world. Providing honest, unbiased information, he encourages his young adult readers to draw their own conclusions regarding the Salem witch trials and, taking this a step further, to reflect upon themselves.

Front Matter:

Dedication page, acknowledgments, TOC, “Note to the Reader,” “On Spelling, Word Usage, and Dates in This Book”

Back Matter:

Appendix, “Timeline of Milestones in Puritan History,” “Notes and Comments,” bibliography, index

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