How does Abigail get stabbed with the needle and how are the doll and the needle used in The Crucible?

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sciftw's profile pic

sciftw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Abigail stabs herself with a needle.  She does this in order to cast suspicion on Elizabeth Proctor.  If Elizabeth Proctor is convicted of witchcraft, then Elizabeth will be executed.  John will once again be a single man, and Abigail thinks that she and John can be intimate together again.  

The doll and needle sequence occurs in Act 2.  Mary Warren arrives at the Proctor household with a "poppet."  Soon after, Reverend Hale and Cheever show up and discover that the poppet has a needle stuck in it.  In Cheever's opinion, the doll signifies that Elizabeth used witchcraft/black magic/voodoo/etc. on the doll which caused Abigail to stab herself with a different needle. 

Cheever, wide-eyed, trembling: The girl, the Williams girl, Abigail Williams, sir. She sat to dinner in Reverend Parris's house tonight, and without word nor warnin' she falls to the floor. Like a struck beast, he says, and screamed a scream that a bull would weep to hear. And he goes to save her, and, stuck two inches in the flesh of her belly, he draw a needle out. And demandin' of her how she come to be so stabbed, she - to Proctor now - testify it - were your wife's familiar spirit pushed it in.

The doll and the needle, both being in the Proctor's house, are seen as definitive proof that Elizabeth is practicing witchcraft.  What's amazing is that the "proof" is so easily discredited.  Mary Warren openly admits that the doll is hers.  She explains that she made it while sitting in court, and she explains that she put the needle in it for safe keeping.  

Mary Warren, glancing about at the avid faces: Why - I made it in the court, sir, and - give it to Goody Proctor tonight.

Proctor, to Hale: Now, sir - do you have it?

Hale: Mary Warren, a needle have been found inside this poppet.

Mary Warren, bewildered: Why, I meant no harm by it, sir. 

Proctor, quickly: You stuck that needle in yourself?

Mary Warren: I - I believe I did, sir, I -

Mary also explains that Abigail Williams saw her do all of this.  

Mary Warren: Ask Abby, Abby sat beside me when I made it.

Proctor wants Mary to go to the court and explain the entire thing.  That would show Abigail as a liar, and the suspicions against Elizabeth would end.  Unfortunately, Mary is too frightened of Abigail's power.  

Mary Warren: She'll kill me for sayin' that! 

e-martin's profile pic

e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Abigail stabs herself with the needle in an attempt to "frame" Elizabeth Proctor for the crime of witchcraft. She is successful in her efforts and Elizabeth is tried and sentenced to death for harming Abigail Williams through black magic. 

The poppet may represent Abigail's feigned innocence and may be seen to represent Elizabeth's actual innocence. It is probably better seen as an example of Abigail's methods, as she uses her youth and her semblance of guilelessness to cover her true motives and her true guile. 

Abigail is both manipulative and savvy, as clearly demonstrated in the well-planned and well-orchestrated piece of acting and fraud she undertakes to have Elizabeth arrested and tried. 

kboyle's profile pic

kboyle | High School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

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The doll represents the innocence that is being killed in Salem.  Abigail stabs herself with the needle in order to blame Elizabeth for of witchcraft, knowing that it would be found in her house when Mary gives it to her.

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