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AbigailWhat do you think of Abigail?

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jamie-wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted August 25, 2007 at 9:05 AM via web

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Abigail

What do you think of Abigail?

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alexb2 | eNotes Employee

Posted August 25, 2007 at 10:41 AM (Answer #2)

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At first she seems to be the most awful sort of person, the embodiment of female evil. However, as things progress she becomes more sympathetic to me because it seems that she's a product of her environment. At the end of The Crucible, I still didn't like her one bit, but I felt sorry for her and hated her community more then I disliked her.

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jamie-wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted August 25, 2007 at 11:04 AM (Answer #3)

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What do you mean by "female evil" and a "product of her environment" and how do you see her becoming more sympathetic?

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alexb2 | eNotes Employee

Posted August 25, 2007 at 1:25 PM (Answer #4)

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Evil may be monolithic in its truest form, but I think Abigail's failings are specifically written by Miller to highlight what might be considered feminine evil, mostly focused on her relationships with other women, and obsession with Procter and his wife. The Jezebel comparisons are fairly obvious.

The Puritan environment clearly is a factor in Abigail's lies and deceptions, her basic need to dissemble could be seen as necessary in a world which both treats men and women very differently and puts her, an unmarried women with no family, near the very bottom of the social totem pole. Despite the fact that she and Procter are equally guilty of adultery, she has in many ways more to lose then he does, as strange as that would seem given that Procter is married.

Her environment then allows her to wield extreme power over others, a power which we can see as easily attractive to someone formerly accused and powerless herself.

As for becoming more sympathetic, perhaps a better way of putting it is that she was clearly a broken person from a broken society, and while at some point in the play she is the villain, eventually a greater villain, her community, emerges.

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kat-attaque | College Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted August 25, 2007 at 1:41 PM (Answer #5)

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Evil may be monolithic in its truest form, but I think Abigail's failings are specifically written by Miller to highlight what might be considered feminine evil, mostly focused on her relationships with other women, and obsession with Procter and his wife. The Jezebel comparisons are fairly obvious.

The Puritan environment clearly is a factor in Abigail's lies and deceptions, her basic need to dissemble could be seen as necessary in a world which both treats men and women very differently and puts her, an unmarried women with no family, near the very bottom of the social totem pole. Despite the fact that she and Procter are equally guilty of adultery, she has in many ways more to lose then he does, as strange as that would seem given that Procter is married.

Her environment then allows her to wield extreme power over others, a power which we can see as easily attractive to someone formerly accused and powerless herself.

As for becoming more sympathetic, perhaps a better way of putting it is that she was clearly a broken person from a broken society, and while at some point in the play she is the villain, eventually a greater villain, her community, emerges.

A thoughtful and thought-provoking post, blazedale. Abigail's function in the play (i.e., how Miller uses the character to make meaning) has just become even more textured and nuanced for me.

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a-b | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

Posted August 27, 2007 at 11:06 AM (Answer #6)

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Evil may be monolithic in its truest form, but I think Abigail's failings are specifically written by Miller to highlight what might be considered feminine evil, mostly focused on her relationships with other women, and obsession with Procter and his wife. The Jezebel comparisons are fairly obvious.

The Puritan environment clearly is a factor in Abigail's lies and deceptions, her basic need to dissemble could be seen as necessary in a world which both treats men and women very differently and puts her, an unmarried women with no family, near the very bottom of the social totem pole. Despite the fact that she and Procter are equally guilty of adultery, she has in many ways more to lose then he does, as strange as that would seem given that Procter is married.

Her environment then allows her to wield extreme power over others, a power which we can see as easily attractive to someone formerly accused and powerless herself.

As for becoming more sympathetic, perhaps a better way of putting it is that she was clearly a broken person from a broken society, and while at some point in the play she is the villain, eventually a greater villain, her community, emerges.

Miller may have intended her to be "female" evil, but aren't a lot of those notions just as outdated as the Puritans themselves? I am not convinced there is any meaningful difference between evil people of any gender.

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renelane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted November 15, 2007 at 1:43 PM (Answer #7)

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For me, Abigail is just detestable. I think Miller intended her to be that way. She is truly a bully-one of the better ones, male or female. She bullies her friends to keep quiet, she bullies them to back up her story, and she manipulates it so that her obsession's wife is accused and in danger of losing her life! She is unrepentant for the affair, while Proctor is eaten alive with guilt. My opinion never wavered throughout the play.
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cmcqueeney | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted November 17, 2007 at 9:49 AM (Answer #8)

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Does anyone else see Abigail as just mentally insane?  I know in Miller's original Act II, Scene 2 she and Proctor have a discussion that clearly portrays her as delusional, but even without that scene, she seems insane to me.  She inflicts pain and injury on herself, she drinks blood and tries to cast a spell, she is basing her future on an unrealistic expectation, she views herself as an innocent martyr, and like a serial killer, she calmly points a finger at whoever she wills and unflinchingly condemns them to die.  This mental instability never caused me to feel sorry for her because she is so calculating and evil, as others have noted, but it was my primary impression of her throughout the play.

In response to the discussion on 'female evil', I agree with blazedale's posts.  Abigail reminds me of Lady Macbeth who calls on the evil spirits to 'unsex her', ridding herself of the positive "female" characteristic of compassion, etc. to become feminine evil.

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 23, 2011 at 2:23 AM (Answer #9)

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I feel sorry for her mostly.  She is young and foolish, impulsive and a little vengeful.  Surely those are characteristics that don't make her attractive in the eyes of the reader, but she's also had something of a hard life, whatever innocence she had was taken advantage of by a much older married man, and once things got started she could not stop them.  It took other peoples' lives, to be sure, but it ruined hers as well.

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e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 7, 2012 at 6:42 PM (Answer #10)

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I think, as a character, Abby is a brilliant creation. Placing a cynical and conniving young woman behind the paranoia taken up by (and taken fatally seriously in) the town shows us that our ideas of innocence and guilt can be misplaced. 

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