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Why can't John prove what Abigail told him in The Crucible by Arthur Miller?

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shatatyanac | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 9, 2013 at 2:24 AM via iOS

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Why can't John prove what Abigail told him in The Crucible by Arthur Miller?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 9, 2013 at 4:36 AM (Answer #1)

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Though it has been seven months since John Proctor confessed to having an affair with Abigail Williams, things are still tense between John and his wife, Elizabeth. In act two of The Crucible by Arthur Miller, the couple's conversation is awkward and stilted; it is clear that they are both trying to avoid offending the other and it is uncomfortable even to read. 

When their conversation turns to the trials, Elizabeth is more informed and tells her husband that things have gotten quite serious. In fact, Abigail is now almost running the court. Elizabeth hesitates, but she is compelled to suggest that he must go to town and tell the court what Abigail told him. John is rather evasive and agrees but is clearly not ready to go to court. The tension escalates as Elizabeth persists and John continues to say he will think about it.

It is a good sign for their relationship that John told Elizabeth about his conversation with Abigail; however, what we soon discover is that John did not tell Elizabeth everything about it. John finally gets angry and makes this pronouncement:

I am only wondering how I may prove what she told me, Elizabeth. If the girl’s a saint now, I think it is not easy to prove she’s fraud, and the town gone so silly. She told it to me in a room alone - I have no proof for it.

If John goes to court with the information that Abigail told him, namely that the girls are doing this simply to avoid being punished for their foolish behavior in the forest, he will have to explain much more--probably including the fact that he and Abigail had an affair. There are plenty of reasons why he does not want to do that, so it is not surprising that he weighs this decision carefully. 

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Lori Steinbach

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