Arthur Miller was inspired to write The Crucible because of what happened in America in the 1950s. Suspicion of witchcraft and an association with the Devil had arisen in the 1600s in Salem, Massachusetts. The allegations and apprehension is comparable with the period of McCarthyism in the United States of America. Joseph McCarthy ( the senator of West Virginia) focused on Democrats in general with baseless and sweeping accusations of communist involvement, giving way for the Republicans to take over Congress and the Presidency. Miller was also taken into the investigation, and was asked to name the people who he thought were communists’. He refused to because he believed people should be given the right to believe in whatever they wanted to believe in.
The Political witch-hunt and the Salem trials were quite similar because people that were accused were immediately seen as a communist or a witch, without a trial or any other form of a court In the fifties, the fear of McCarthyism was physical; the communist threat was an actual threat, from a group of people. The hysteria developed from the overreaction of the fear of the communist threat and was soon taken out of proportion similar to the Salem trials where a large number of people were accused, of being witches who they thought served the devil.
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I think Arthur Miller created Abigail to show how just one person can cause havoc and mass hysteria to a whole community. In addition, Miller wanted to point out that those who were blamed (justly or unjustly) for having Communist/Satanic links blamed others, therefore saving themselves. These people were victims too, although they caused there to be other victims in the process.
While every conflict may have more than one person to blame, after examining the play thoroughly I felt that in The Crucible, Abigail was the one I had to point my finger at. My reasons for taking this view were because she contributed to the deaths of many innocent individuals. I could not fathom why the need for love had led her to be deceitful and a killer. Her uncle Rev. Parris was responsible for her upbringing so I was shocked at her self-importance and ill-mannered ways. The stage directions point out that Abigail was “an orphan with an endless capacity for dissembling.” This meant she lied very much, which was not what was expected for a niece of a Rev.
On the contrary, If I were to defend her I would say that the religious beliefs and manners were too much for her to adopt. The last page ‘Echoes Down The Corridor’ states that “Abigail turned up later as a prostitute.” She couldn’t endure the strictness of the Puritan customs, thus this made her want to rebel against the strict beliefs. To add to that when Abigail was a child, she witnessed her parent’s tragic deaths. ” I saw Indians smash my dear parents’ head on the pillow next to mine…” When her parents died she had no one to look up to, apart from her uncle who would have been no help. The play states, ” He (Rev Parris) was a widower with no interest, or talent with them.” Consequently, it is easy to see that Abigail received no love or attention. As a result of this, she couldn’t look up to a real father figure.
Abigail William’s obsession with John Proctor affects the play very greatly. We initially see the relationship between Abigail and John as an affair formed from lust.
Arthur Miller points out that if a person loves someone; they would do anything in order to get them back. In Abigail’s case when the brief affair came to a halt, she thought that practising Voodoo was the key to getting him to love her again.
Tituba says, ” You beg to me to conjure! She begs to make a charm.”
Abigails’s desperation for Proctor is shown when she practises the ‘devil’s magic’ just to get him back into her life. She cannot accept that Proctor doesn’t have any feelings for her.
She says to him:
” I look for John Proctor that took me from my sleep and put knowledge in my heart. She feels as if he is the missing jigsaw piece in her life.
However Protor doesn’t want to known, he tells her ” … I will cut off my hand before I’ll ever reach for you again.” He just doesn’t want the bond between him and Abigail to exist.
Abigail did not care, that Proctor had commited adultery with her in fact she wanted more. Abigail states, ” You loved me John Proctor, and whatever sin it is you loved me yet.” This is proof, that her passion for him was enormous.
Abigail’s character undoubtedly contained an element of jealously. She thought that Elizabeth was spoling her dreams of having a relationship with John Proctor. Abigail seduced Proctor whilst working for him and Elizabeth as a maid. As the relationship developed Elizabeth suspected something unusual and ended it by evicting Abigail. She couldn’t accept that Proctor didn’t love her, and hated the fact that Elizabeth was in a relationship with him.This sordid fling put her in a bad light in the village. It was only natural for Elizabeth to have a lot of anger for Abigail. Elizabeth spreads the word of her sinful behaviour and refuses to attend the church reasoning that she would not sit near to anything so soiled. She felt a great deal of resentment towards Elizabeth. She says, ” She is blackening my name in the village! She is telling lies about me, she is a cold snivelling woman…” In addition she also says, ” Oh I marvel how such a strong man may let a sickly wife be…” She feels that Elizabeth is not worthy of his love and wonders why he loves her. At last she realises that the only way of getting back Proctor was to seek revenge and accuse Elizabeth of being a witch.
Abigail was also a skilled actress. She made a very chilling scene in front of Cheever. In his conversation to Proctor in Act 2, he tells him, “… and stuck two inches in the flesh of her belly, she draw a needle. “She testify it were your wife’s familiar spirit pushed in.” From this graphic description, it shows how cunning Abigail was. She had known that Mary Warren would bring home the poppet home to Goody Proctor. Mary Wareen points out, ” Abby sat beside me when I made it.” Abigail knew, that Mary Wareen stuck the needle in for safekeeping ; Abigail merely wanted to frame Elizabeth.
Due to Proctors’ urges, Mary Warren spoke the turth about Abigail’s lies. To conver up, Abigail suddenly displayed mass hysteria and fooled the judges when she claimed that Mary Warren was a wtich. She pretened to see Mary’s spirit in the form of a yellow bird. ” But God made my face ; you cannot want to tear my face. Envy is a deadly sin Mary.”
Since the girls feared Abigail, they copied her by pretending to vision Mary’s spirit.
Act 3 pg 91: ABIGAIL AND ALL THE GIRLS: (all transfixed):
Abby, you musn’t! Abigail made a scence yet again as she knew that people felt strongly of the ideas of witch, so even Danforth believed the insanity. Danforth says, (growing hysterical) ” Why can they only repeat you?”(To Mary Warren who supposedly drew the spirit on Abigail and the girls)
Abigails domineering character can be made apparent right from the start in Act 1. The play illustrates very much, how her personal power, terrified the life out of the other girls. ” Let either of you breathe a word about the terrible things and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you… I have seen some reddish work at night and I can make wish you had never seen the sun go down! For her own sake, she threatened the girls so that her ‘bad deeds’ ( dancing naked in the forest) were kept private. She knew it would damage her reputation, this quote from Abigail has been the most unforgettable for me, as it shows how ruthless her character was.
” I saw Goody Hawkins with the Devil, I saw Goody Booth with the devil!”
Frightened of being whipped, and possibly hung, she dishonestly accused innocent people of being ‘with’ the devil to protect herself.
Even in the presence of authority, Abigail isn’t afraid to stand up to or question people. These abilities are tested later on in court when Hale or Danforth questions her. In act 3 her power over Danforth is exemplified as he weakens. This gives her courage and unbelievably threatens Danforth, “Let you be aware Mr Danforth. Think you are so mighty that the power of Hell may not turn your wits? “It seems strange to say something so reckless. I think that she is probably trying to shock Danforth into thinking that Mary Warren’s story was preposterous. She may cause him to doubt himself for a moment, but whatever its purpose, she quickly assumes a stronger means of defence. She is flexible and can adapt to a changing situation so as to remain in control of things. She is cognitive and very sharp. These abilities are tested later on in court when Hale or Danforth questions her.
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