In The Crucible, are there any quotes that highlight a woman as less powerful in the community of Salem?

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davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"My name is good in the village! I will not have it said my name is soiled! Goody Proctor is a gossiping liar!"

This is Abigail Williams, indignantly denying rumors related to her by her uncle, the Reverend Parris, that she's been dismissed from the Proctors' service because of an affair with John. A "good" reputation is essential for women in Salem. The prevailing double standard means that women cannot be seen as anything other than paragons of virtue when it comes to sexual relations. Abigail understands the importance of this, which is why she's so anxious to defend her impugned honor.

"It needs a cold wife to prompt lechery."

Elizabeth Proctor is effectively blaming herself for her husband's affair with Abigail. She seems to have internalised the dominant social prejudice that regards women as ultimately responsible for acts of adultery, either as cold, neglectful wives or as brazen temptresses.

ABIGAIL: Oh, I marvel how such a strong man may let such a sickly wife be.

PROCTOR: You’ll speak nothin’ of Elizabeth!

ABIGAIL: She is blackening my name in the village! She is telling lies about me! She is a cold, sniveling woman, and you bend to her! Let her turn you like a—

PROCTOR, shaking her: Do you look for whippin’?

When pushed to anger by Abigail, it's telling that John has no hesitation in threatening to give her a whipping. In taunting John about "bending" to Elizabeth's will, Abigail's not just impugning his manhood, she's also expressing the prevailing moral code which says that men must have complete control over women, even if it means resorting to physical violence.



favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Crucible, it is very common to see a husband tell his wife what to do, which demonstrates the lower position of women in this community. When the Putnams arrive at Reverend Parris's house in Act One, Mr. Putnam addresses his wife, saying, "Ann! Tell Mr. Parris what you have done." This sounds like a father speaking to his child rather than a husband speaking to his wife, at least by modern standards.

John Proctor addresses his wife in a similar way in Act Two. He gets angry that she allowed Mary Warren to go to town, saying as he "hold[s] back a full condemnation of her": "It is a fault, it is a fault, Elizabeth—you're the mistress here, not Mary Warren." The fact that he can speak to her in such a way indicates their inequality. This inequality is also implied by his statement, "I should have roared you down when first you told me your suspicion [about my affair with Abigail]. But I wilted, and, like a Christian, I confessed." One equal does not "roar down" another.

The way John speaks to Mary also demonstrates the discrepancy in power between men and women. When he arrives at Mr. Parris's house in Act One, she is quick to tell him that she's headed home, but he says, "Be you foolish, Mary Warren? Be you deaf? I forbid you leave the house, did I not? Why shall I pay you? I am looking for you more often than my cows!" Again, this sounds more like a parent (and an unkind one at that) speaking to a child than one adult speaking to another.

sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"She thinks to dance with me on my wife’s grave! And well she might, for I thought of her softly. God help me, I lusted, and there is a promise in such sweat. But it is a whore’s vengeance."

This quote by Proctor in the courtroom displays his condescending attitude towards women.  Although Abigail is clearly at fault, this quote by Proctor shows that he lusted, that he took advantage, and shows little attention to Abigail's feelings.

Parris: I have given you a home, child, I have put clothes upon your back-- now give me an upright answer. Your name in town-- it is entirely white, is it not?

Abigail: Why, I am sure it is, sir. There be no blush about my name.

In this exchange, Parris is challenging Abigail's reputation.  He has heard rumors.  Being so concerned about it shows the tremendous pressure women were under.  A double standard existed, in which the virtues of women were more insisted upon then the virtues of men.