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What are the internal and external conflicts of Abigail Williams in the play The...

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izzybeans25 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 18, 2012 at 9:36 PM via web

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What are the internal and external conflicts of Abigail Williams in the play The Crucible?

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

Posted August 20, 2012 at 5:19 PM (Answer #1)

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In The Crucible, Abigail Williams has several goals that effectively generate her conflicts, internal and external.

One of Abigail's primary goals is to resume her affair with John Proctor. Another goal is to protect herself from punishment for dancing naked in the woods with the other girls and Tituba. These goals present Abigail's outward, external conflicts. 

In her attempt at winning back John Proctor, Abigail is in conflict with Elizabeth Proctor. The opposition between the women leads Abigail to manipulate circumstances and accuse Elizabeth of witchcraft, having Elizabeth arrested and tried. 

In her effort to escape blame for her taboo actions in the woods, Abigail concocts the witchcraft scheme wherein many townspeople are accused of witchcraft, removing attention from Abigail and her friends. This leads to much of the action of the play. 

Abigail is challenged to be honest when Mary Warren reveals the fraud being perpetrated by the girls in their witchcraft accusations. At this point, Abigail experiences a short-lived internal conflict. 

She is forced to wonder if she will get away with her lies, which brings her to a moment of decision. Will she repent and confess or will she continue in her lies, even if this means that innocent people will die? In admitting to her weakness, Abigail may be able to find help with her internal turmoil. 

She is at once a frightening and pitiable character, malicious in her accusations and sad in her need for close human contact and attention.

The avarice and bitterness of Abigail's character mean that this crisis is short-lived. Her lesser qualities win out. 

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