What are the direct and indirect characterizations of Abigail Williams in Arthur Miller's The Crucible?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In terms of direct characterization, before Abigail even speaks, Miller tells us that she is "a strikingly beautiful girl, an orphan, with an endless capacity for dissembling."  This "endless capacity for dissembling" means Abigail is adept at hiding her true feelings or opinions; in other words, she is deceptive. 

In terms of indirect characterization, we learn a great deal more about Abigail from her conversations.  Abigail's uncle, the Reverend Parris, asks her about her reputation in the village because he thinks it's odd that no one has tried to hire her in the seven months since she was discharged from the Proctors' service.  He says, "I have heard it said, and I tell you as I heard it, that [Goodwife Proctor] comes so rarely to the church this year for she will not sit so close to something soiled."  In other words, there are rumors about Abigail, rumors that makes her quite defensive (implying there is some truth to the rumors).  Abigail is not honest or virtuous, either—a fact we learn from her conversation with John Proctor.

Moreover, Abigail threatens the other girls, saying she will kill them if they tell her uncle that she drank a charm to kill Goody Proctor in the forest.  She says,

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 can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down!

Such a threat really shows us just how awful Abigail is.  Not only is she a liar who had an affair with a married man, but she is also, apparently, willing to murder.  She threatens her cousin and her "friend" with death if they tell the truth about her actions.  This indirect characterization helps us identify Abigail as ruthless, selfish, and cruel.

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The Crucible

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