What is Abigail taught by all the "Christian women and their covenanted men" in The Crucible?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Abigail makes this statement in The Crucible when she is being cast aside once again by the man she loves (or at least wants), John Proctor.  Early in Act I, John and Abigail share a moment virtually alone (Betty is unresponsive in her bed) in which Abigail confesses the girls had been "sportin'" in the forest last night.  This is the cause of all the uproar today, and John recognizes Abigail's trouble-making ways for what they are, something about which they both laugh.  Soon, though, the conversation turns personal, and Abigail claims she knows he still wants to be with her. 

Proctor speaks earnestly and forcefully, telling her:

Abby, I may think of you softly from time to time.  But I will cut off my hand before I ever reach for you again.  Wipe it out of mind.  We never touched, Abby.

This, of course, infuriates the young woman who lashes out at him in her hurt.  She begins by denigrating his wife, Elizabeth, and ends with this satiric condemnation against all the "pure" men and women of Salem:

John Proctor...took me from my sleep and put knowledge in my heart!  I never knew what pretense Salem was, I never knew the lying lessons I was taught by all these Christian women and their covenanted men!  And now you bid me tear the light out of my eyes?  I will not, I cannot!

One can almost hear her spitting out those words "Christian" and "covenanted."  She is clearly incensed and hurt and is now lashing out at the hypocrisy she sees in the people around her.  The great irony, of course, is that she is an exceptionally good liar, which is clearly a sin (as his her adultery) and which condemns almost two dozen people to die.  Miller's stage direction for Abigail says she has "an endless capacity for dissembling"--in other words, she is a magnificent liar.  She has learned, she says, that the flawed, sinful men and women of the town are not what they appear.  If that is true, it seems she is now one of them.

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