Explain how Abigail's disappearance affects the resolution of the play The Crucible.

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Abigail's disappearance tells you everything you need to know about this devious, slippery character. Having unleashed all this chaos upon Salem, she's nowhere to be found as the action of the play heads towards its tragic conclusion. However, instead of concluding that Abigail was a pathological liar and that the...

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Abigail's disappearance tells you everything you need to know about this devious, slippery character. Having unleashed all this chaos upon Salem, she's nowhere to be found as the action of the play heads towards its tragic conclusion. However, instead of concluding that Abigail was a pathological liar and that the witch-trials based on those lies have no credibility, Judge Danforth still goes ahead with the proceedings despite Reverend Hale's desperate pleas. What this shows us is that, although Abigail may have started this particular fire, others have a vested interest in keeping it going. There's simply too much riding on a successful outcome of the trials (i.e., sending innocent people to their deaths) to stop them now. It's as if the whole witch-craze has taken on an unstoppable momentum all of its own, and which must be allowed to run its natural course.

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Abigail's disappearance makes plain her dishonesty and deceptiveness, something the courts have been unwilling to see up until now.  She lies to her uncle, telling him that she'll be spending the night at her friend, Mercy Lewis's, house -- Mercy tells the same lie at her house -- and then Abigail robs her uncle blind.  Before boarding a ship, she breaks into Reverend Parris's strongbox, and steals his life's savings.  It begins to look as though Abigail is not the righteous, holy, instrument of God the courts initially believed her to be; instead, she appears to be a conniving and deceitful young woman, determined to serve herself and get out of Salem before the tide turns against her.

Abigail's dishonesty casts doubt on the accusations she has made thus far.  Her disappearance is just one of many reasons, however, that Reverend Parris and Mr. Hale beg Deputy Governor Danforth to postpone the hangings.  Despite the many reasons to delay, Danforth refuses, insisting that it will only cast doubt on the guilt of others who have been hanged for the same crimes already.  He seems to understand, now, that Abigail is a vicious liar, but he will not risk his credibility or authority by walking back on the convictions.

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By having Abigail Williams leave Salem, Arthur Miller has revised the situation just enough to make a difference in peoples’ lives but have very little effect on the results of the witch trials. The arrogant, powerful men of Massachusetts are forced to admit, at least to themselves, that a poor, orphaned, teenage servant girl has made fools of them. Although Abigail cannot be caught in her lies, by making herself unavailable to testify, she saves not only her own life but, ironically, the men’s reputations: they are not required to publicize their foolishness. While some of the court leaders favor adjusting the procedures, Danforth is a more adept politician who can anticipate the disastrous results were they to do so. Another adjustment is the fate of the Proctors and their unborn child. While Abby had tried to curse Elizabeth and destroy the fetus, instead she guarantees their safety. Having full knowledge of Abby’s character strengthens John’s resolve and, with his death, he becomes the kind of man and husband he should have been all along. An orphan herself, Abby has guaranteed that his child will not have a father, but she has destroyed her own chances at happiness in the bargain.

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Given the fact that we do not know for certain where Abigail is or how she winds up bears a great deal on the nature of the accusations.  Abigail has taken money and fled.  This is about the most we know.  We do find out that she has left for Boston and has become a prostitute.  The reality is that her abrupt disappearance and lack of resolution in terms of her departure could be symbolic of the accusations and trials, themselves.  They were "full of sound and fury, yet signifying nothing" substantial.  The lack of evidence and credibility surrounding the trials is representative of Abigail's actions themselves, which were histrionic and dramatic, yet not very worthwhile in terms of evidence.  Abigail's departure highlights the illusory nature of the charges of witchcraft.  At the same time, her departure is akin to a storm that brings about much in the way of destruction and leaves for others to reassemble what is left of their broken homes.  The reality is that Abigail herself was that very story, and her departure is representative of this.

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