I have been asked to write a paper assessing the female characters in Miller's play. To what extent would you say any of them are "feminists"? Does Miller seem to advocate a traditional role for women or does he propose a new understanding of the value of women?
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That's so funny! I am trying to write something similar, and I found this trying to look it up. I was given a list of essay topics, and one of them was "Discuss Miller's Treatment of Women". I liked that one the best, but I wasn't sure whether I could go anywhere with it.
One thing that caught my attention in the novel was when one of the minor characters (I believe it was Giles Corey, but I'm not sure), mentioned that his wife had been reading a book. It was like he didn't want his wife reading, because she was a woman. Maybe he didn't want her to get ideas about anything, but the way he say that just made me really mad. I believe I wrote in the margin of my copy "God forbid a woman reads!". That's just a tiny bit of the novel, and it seems more like Miller was being sort of satirical; making fun of the status of women during that time, and maybe even his time. I'm sure there is other evidence in the text, but I just remember that.
More people need to respond to this! I'm interested to hear other views as well. Please, expound!
I am not sure if there are any truly 'feminist' characters, but I do think you could read the work as advocating for equal rights for women. Many of the play's central conflicts exist because of limitations on the rights of women, and their low status in society. When this is upended by Abigail, power is inverted and 19 people end up dead. You could easily argue that had women greater respect and equal rights, few of the main issues would have come up in the first place.
As for a specific feminist character, I am not sure. You might possibly look at Elizabeth Proctor, who is able to at least express herself calmly and clearly, and make a case for reason.
I think there are a lot of female issues at work in Miller's play. If you wanted to take a psychological approach, consider a Jungian angle. The woods, where Abigail, Tituba and others get into so much trouble takes place here. Some of the oldest and most repeated fairy tales have the beginnings of action in the mysterious woods (Hansel and Gretel, Robin Hood, etc.) The woods are one of the six common archetypes, and the epitome of wildness. You might consider cross referencing Miller's play with either Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" or "The Scarlet Letter." For women in all these cases, both power and peril lye in the the wild woods.
i was looking for information on Miller's treatment of women, but didn't really get anywhere. Then i realized, whether he degraded them or not, women were portrayed to be really strong. Abby literally had the power to have anyone in the town put away just by mentioning there name in court. I didn't like her very much in the play, but she was pretty powerful.
Another strong female character in this play was Rebecca Nurse. In the beginning, everyone asks for her advice about the two girls who were "sick". Miller makes a point in his description of the Nurse faction to note that Rebecca was extremely well-esteemed in Salem, and that it would seem impossible to accuse her of witchcraft as a result. At the end, she is still a strong character, despite the tragedy which had been thrust upon her, when Proctor says that "she wishes to go as a saint". In her quiet, calm demeanor she speaks volumes about the respect and dignity that all women deserve.
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