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Salem – A Literary Profile

Themes and Motifs in the Depiction of Colonial and Contemporary Salem in American Fiction

Clara Petino

To this day, Salem, Massachusetts, is synonymous with the witch trials of 1692. Their unique pace and structure has not only made the infamous town a strong cultural metaphor, but has generated countless novels, short stories, and plays over the past 200 years. This book marks the first comprehensive analysis of literary Salem and its historical as well as contemporary significance, from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s literature of the 19th century to Arthur Miller’s The Crucible to a growing corpus of contemporary fiction.

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2. The Motif of Real Estate


“Religious freedom is my immediate goal,

but my long-range plan is to go into real-estate.”

(Donald Reilly, qtd. in Bercovitch: The Rites of Assent 31)

To this day, American (economic) development is inseparable from real estate politics, from the first Europeans settling the ‘open land’ to the characteristic skylines of high rises in modern American cities. The 2016 election of Donald Trump, a businessman with no political experience, is one of the most recent and most outstanding examples of this close link – his family’s well-known real estate development company owns some of the most prominent skyscrapers in cities like New York and Chicago. Another example is the financial crisis of 2008/2009 which resulted from falling home prices and a concomitant peak in the American home ownership rate in the mid-2000s (cp. “Homeownership Rate for the United States” n.pag.):

In fact, the housing bubble itself contributed to the development of the financial crisis. Very attractive house prices, low mortgage interest rates and low standards for mortgage loans resulted in growth of subprime debt. (Jennifer Rudden: “U.S. Housing Market” n.pag.)

Nevertheless, ten years later “[t]‌wenty-three of the 38 largest real estate companies in the world [still] hail from the U.S., including four of the top five.” (Samantha Sharf: “The World’s Largest Real Estate Companies 2018” n.pag.) The sale and lease of real estate are vital economic activities in the United States and are regulated by state and federal law. Peter Hay...

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