What are the internal and external conflicts of Abigail Williams in the play The Crucible?

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e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Crucible, Abigail Williams has several goals that effectively generate her conflicts, internal and external.

One of Abigail's primary goals is to resume her affair with John Proctor. Another goal is to protect herself from punishment for dancing naked in the woods with the other girls and Tituba. These goals present Abigail's outward, external conflicts. 

In her attempt at winning back John Proctor, Abigail is in conflict with Elizabeth Proctor. The opposition between the women leads Abigail to manipulate circumstances and accuse Elizabeth of witchcraft, having Elizabeth arrested and tried. 

In her effort to escape blame for her taboo actions in the woods, Abigail concocts the witchcraft scheme wherein many townspeople are accused of witchcraft, removing attention from Abigail and her friends. This leads to much of the action of the play. 

Abigail is challenged to be honest when Mary Warren reveals the fraud being perpetrated by the girls in their witchcraft accusations. At this point, Abigail experiences a short-lived internal conflict. 

She is forced to wonder if she will get away with her lies, which brings her to a moment of decision. Will she repent and confess or will she continue in her lies, even if this means that innocent people will die? In admitting to her weakness, Abigail may be able to find help with her internal turmoil. 

She is at once a frightening and pitiable character, malicious in her accusations and sad in her need for close human contact and attention.

The avarice and bitterness of Abigail's character mean that this crisis is short-lived. Her lesser qualities win out. 

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

External Conflicts: Abigail's primary external conflicts concern the consequences attached to breaking Salem's strict rules regarding dancing and trespassing in the dangerous, enigmatic forest, as well her ulterior motives being discovered by the community of Salem. She also risks the consequences of falsely testifying against innocent citizens and endangering their lives. In the austere community of Salem, Abigail initially lies in order to avoid being punished for dancing in the wilderness. Abigail also has to worry about the other girls telling the truth about her accusations. If Abigail's lies are revealed, and she is exposed for falsely accusing innocent citizens, she will more than likely lose her life. She is essentially in conflict with the authority figures throughout Salem and relies on her ability to manipulate them to survive.

Internal Conflict: Abigail's internal conflict involves her inability to cope with John Proctor's rejection. After their affair, John Proctor is filled with guilt and refuses to continue his relationship with Abigail. She is heartbroken and cannot get over the loss of her lover. Abigail not only drinks blood and has Tituba curse Elizabeth Proctor, but also falsely accuses Elizabeth of witchcraft in an attempt to get rid of her so that she can have John to herself.