In ‘The Crucible’ Essay, Research Paper
I believe that Abigail Williams was a symptom of what was wrong with Salem society. I think that it was a mixture of her background, her personality and living in an oppressive society that made her cause the witch hunts.
The Puritan society of Salem was oppressive. There was no room for individuality. The theocracy in Salem was assembled to protect the people from everything unholy and as fears grew of attacks by Red Indians everything that could lead to disunity was outlawed. This had the opposite effect as it eventually tore the village apart. I believe it happened because everyone in the village, especially the children, wanted the right to speak freely. As Arthur Miller says, “It was also, and as importantly, a long overdue opportunity for everyone so inclined to express publicly his guilt and sins.”
Abigail was only seventeen when the witch trials started, therefore she was still a child. She needed fun and entertainment but all things of that nature were considered evil. At the beginning of the play she and the other girls were dancing in the woods which in today’s society would be seen as harmless. It was just entertainment but Reverend Parris made them feel guilty and evil. The younger girls, like Betty, didn’t know what to do so they looked to Abigail to help them. Mary Warren says to Abigail, “What’ll we do? The village is out! I’ve just come from the farm: the whole country’s talkin’ witchcraft! They’ll be calling us witches, Abby!”
Abigail is also power-hungry. It’s part of her personality. She discovered that the girls needed her help and became their leader and manipulated them for her own benefit. She used Mary to implicate that Elizabeth Proctor was a witch so she could take her place as John’s wife. Her affair with John also reflects her personality as she must have been mature as well as physically attractive.
Abigail has a very complex personality. Even though she seems very harsh and malicious, she’s very kind to John at the beginning. She says to John, “You are no wintery man. I know you, John. I know you(She is weeping).” She obviously cares about him until she realises he really loves Elizabeth and then she becomes intent on hurting both of them. I think that her mean streak comes from seeing her parents killed when she was younger. This made her grow up quickly and she resents it. This is why she seems intent on hurting other people so they have to suffer like she did.
Elizabeth is a very weak person compared to Abigail and perhaps this is why John was tempted to have an affair with Abigail. However, Elizabeth is still the person that John loves and is married to and he has to stay with her. This is a problem for Abigail and that’s why she names Elizabeth as a witch.
Abigail, while subconsciously wanting to hurt as many people as she can, has a reason for naming Elizabeth and then John as witches. She hates both of them at the end of the play but by naming John, a respectable figure in the community, she makes people doubt her credibility. After John is in prison, Abigail runs away with Mercy because she knows that the people don’t believe her anymore and she loses all trust when she steals money from her uncle. I’m not convinced by the legend that Abigail became a prostitute because in the play she is portrayed as intelligent and quick-witted so I’m sure that she could think of a better way to earn money.
From the evidence in the play, I have concluded that Abigail was a symptom of the problems in Salem society and that her personality, her background and growing up in an oppressive society all contributed to what she did and her part in the Salem witch trials.