Women in The CrucibleWhat is the role of women in The Crucible?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Miller portrays women as marginalized, defenseless members of society, who are either morally upright Christians or nefarious individuals. One of the main reasons Abigail and the others begin accusing innocent citizens of witchcraft is because of the position of authority and importance they are given throughout their community. Typically, young women lived oppressed lives and were expected to be silent and obedient. After they become officials in the court, they take on an authoritative role and callously wield their new power.

While Abigail is portrayed as a malevolent character, who has an "endless capacity for dissembling," other females throughout the play are depicted as morally upright, defenseless individuals. Elizabeth Proctor, Rebecca Nurse, and Martha Corey are all God-fearing women with positive reputations throughout Salem but are subjected to the authority of men. Despite their spotless background, all three women are accused of witchcraft and stand before the official court of Salem.

Throughout The Crucible, Miller presents the Puritan women as a marginalized group of individuals, who are either morally-upright or outright malicious. Aside from Abigail and her followers, the women portrayed throughout the play have little power or influence in regards to their situation. After challenging Salem's court, which is ruled by domineering men, Rebecca Nurse and Martha Corey are hanged in front of their community while Elizabeth loses her husband to the same fate. 

Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Women in The Crucible

What is the role of women in The Crucible?

Miller's two major women characters play key roles in the drama.

Abigail Williams serves as the catalyst for the play's events. It is her false accusations which initiate the witchcraft hysteria in Salem; it is her subsequent premeditated acts which feed it, resulting in the murders of 20 innocent souls. Miller develops Abigail as a dynamic character in that her confidence is shaken and her power destroyed by the play's conclusion, even though her self-serving nature does not change.

Elizabeth Proctor gives the reader insight into John's character. Through John's relationship with Elizabeth, Arthur Miller develops the steps in John's moral and spiritual growth, which is finally realized in the final scene between John and Elizabeth moments before his death. Elizabeth's character is one of strength and developing self-awareness. 

Both Abigail and Elizabeth play very significant roles in John Proctor's life.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Let's also add Tituba who is the catalyst for all the witchcraft, though certainly not the hysteria.  She is foreign and has brought her native mysticism into this Puritan environment.  And Mrs. Putnam is a bitter woman who is willing to do anything--even send her only daughter into the forest to use witchcraft--to try to find some peace for her grief.  This desperation spurs her on in her accusations, feeding the hysteria.  Several others serve as innocent victims simply because theye were in the wrong time, as in the case of Goody Osborne.  Women are both empowered and powerless in this play; there doesn't seem to be much middle ground. 

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The Crucible

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