Compare Abigail Williams and Elizabeth Proctor from The Crucible and Daisy from The Great Gatsby.

1 Answer | Add Yours

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

One area of comparison between the three women is how each of them views emotional commitment.  

Each of the three women is integral to their respective work.  There are different ways to compare them.  I think that analyzing how they each view emotional commitment reveals a great deal about their characterizations.  Daisy views commitment as something that is negotiable. She cannot make emotional commitments for anything more than her own convenience.

The best example of this is when Daisy is ostensibly in love with Gatsby. When alone with Gatsby and his wealth, she has no problem speaking about love and its corresponding emotional commitment.  However, this is not the case at the moment of decision.  When this instant is upon her and she is forced to choose between Gatsby and Tom, Daisy's emotional capacity is illuminated for everyone, including Gatsby, to see:  

"Oh, you want too much!" she cried to Gatsby. "I love you now – isn't that enough? I can't help what's past." She began to sob helplessly. "I did love him once – but I loved you too."

“You loved me too?” he repeated.

In Chapter 7, when the exchange between Gatsby and Daisy takes place, Fitzgerald writes that "Human sympathy has its limits."  This is reflective of how Daisy views emotional commitment. It is limited.  It is finite.  When it is clear that Daisy is going to remain with Tom, she does not declare it openly. Rather, Nick sees both of them sitting at a kitchen table over chicken and ale. He cannot hear what they are saying.  However, Daisy's notion of commitment is clearly displayed: "There was an unmistakable air of natural intimacy about the picture, and anybody would have said that they were conspiring together."  Daisy cannot embrace emotional commitment to anything. This is because she does not stand for anything other than her own survival.  Emotional commitment for Daisy works until something better, or less inconvenient, comes along.

An opposite view of commitment is offered in Miller's The Crucible.  Abigail and Elizabeth have few problems displaying commitment.  They are committed to their particular ends.  The difference is their motivation. Individual self interest defines Abigail's sense of emotional commitment. Unlike Daisy, who has a problem voicing commitment, Abigail has no problem showing emotional commitment to the cause of herself.  She is the only cause that she believes in.  She is able to wrangle the wills of others around her to get what she feels is hers.  Daisy vacillated at the moment of commitment. Abigail shows no such tendencies:

Now look you. All of you. We danced. And Tituba conjured Ruth Putnam’s dead sisters. And that is all. And mark this. Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you. And you know I can do it; I saw Indians smash my dear parents’ heads on the pillow next to mine, and I have seen some reddish work done at night, and I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down! She goes to Betty and roughly sits her up. Now, you - sit up and stop this.

There is an intense focus to Abigail's commitment.  She is able to threaten others with their lives in order to ensure that she gets what she wants.  

Abigail displays a focused drive in her emotional commitments. Her vision is opposed to Daisy, who is unable to articulate a clear choice. Abigail shows this in her personal relationships, as well.  When she speaks with Proctor in Act I, she is committed to having him:

I know how you clutched my back behind your house and sweated like a stallion whenever I come near! Or did I dream that? It’s she put me out, you cannot pretend it were you. I saw your face when she put me out, and you loved me then and you do now!

It is clear that Abigail will not be denied when it comes to emotional commitment.  The clarity of her focus, the intensity of feeling in her vision, and the lengths she will go to defend her commitment makes her fundamentally different than Daisy.

Elizabeth Proctor is equally passionate.  This differentiates her from Daisy, who sees passion as flexible.   However, it also makes her different from Abigail.  Elizabeth is committed to elements larger than herself.  She is emotionally committed to her marriage, to love, and to embracing a notion of the divine that encompasses both of them. This is far from self-interest. When she speaks to John about his affair with Abigail, this commitment is evident:  "I do not judge you. The magistrate sits in your heart that judges you. I never thought you but a good man, John - with a smile - only somewhat bewildered."  Elizabeth is committed to "the magistrate" that judges both she and her husband.

Elizabeth views emotional commitment as a concept linked with something more than herself.  She demonstrates these tenets when she admits that she must have played a role in John's adultery:  "John, I counted myself so plain, so poorly made, no honest love could come to me! Suspicion kissed you when I did; I never knew how I should say my love. It were a cold house I kept!"  Elizabeth speaks of commitment in different terms than Abigail.  She speaks of it with more encompassing notions of the good life. Elizabeth links her construction of commitment to "goodness" and a sense of duty.  Commitment in these terms is clear when she tells Proctor that she will be his "only wife" in recognition of his vows or at the end when she tells Hale that "He [Proctor] have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him."  Elizabeth understands emotional commitment as being linked to something larger than the individual.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,915 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question