What are Abigail's strengths and weaknesses in The Crucible?

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Abigail Williams is a young girl in Salem, but she is the character who drives most of the action in the play. It appears that Abigail is the main reason the girls met in the woods with Tituba, and she has also had an affair with John Proctor. These two...

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events incite much of the action inThe Crucible. Abigail is portrayed as a villain in many productions and readings of The Cruciblebut there are redeeming (or, at least, sympathetic) aspects to her character that can be better explored.

Abigail's weaknesses are fairly obvious. Throughout the course of the play, Abigail lies, manipulates, and unfairly accuses others. In many ways, Abigail is presented as the foil to Elizabeth. Abigail is filled with repressed desires while Elizabeth is driven by devotion and maturity.

There are aspects to Abigail that can be seen as positive. This is particularly true if you take into account the age of Abigail. She is young, a teenager at best, and her emotions are wild and uncontrolled. This is true of many teenagers, but Abigail happens to find herself in a situation that allows her negative qualities to run rampant. In another context, some of these negative qualities could be viewed as positive. She is cunning, emotionally intelligent, and charismatic. These qualities could easily be viewed as positive if she existed in a different time, place, and body.

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What are the strengths, flaws, and motivations of Abigail Williams in The Crucible?

Many of Abigail Williams’s strengths are also her flaws, or lead to them. Her original motivations are to acquire the love and security she needs so deeply, and when she does not get them, those are replaced with desire for revenge. Abigail was traumatized by her family’s slaughter, which left her destitute, homeless, and orphaned. Forced to take a job, she sought a safe haven in the Proctor’s home. Instead, the teenager ended up in a sexual relationship with her much older boss, John Proctor.

Arthur Miller presents Abigail initially as a tenacious, wily survivor. Although the audience soon becomes aware that her motives in participating in the conjuring in the woods were less than admirable, it gradually develops throughout the play that she has become obsessed with destroying not only Elizabeth Proctor and John but also their unborn child. Her childish fantasy that her relationship with John was love is shattered not only by his rejecting her but also by learning that Elizabeth is pregnant. Abby turns her considerable talents to her misguided purpose; strong-willed and single-minded, she manipulates first the other girls, then the men who run the court. She is resolute in her endeavor to ruin their lives and, ultimately, to cause their deaths.

One of the challenges The Crucible presents 65 years later is how to reconcile Arthur Miller’s characterization of Abby as a wily seducer and John as a decent man with what today audiences would understand as serious sexual misconduct. Although it could be argued that children reached adulthood earlier in the 17th century so that Abby was effectively an adult, the difficulty remains that John Proctor was both her employer and, because she was orphaned, a father figure.

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What are the strengths, flaws, and motivations of Abigail Williams in The Crucible?

Abigail's strengths include determination and intelligence.  She is determined both to win back her former lover, John Proctor, as well as to exact revenge on any in her community who have impugned her reputation.  It seems likely that, once Abigail saw the power granted to Tituba to make accusations, she realized that she, too, could possess such a power, as she began, cleverly, to make accusations immediately afterward herself.  She is dedicated to John, so much so that she attempts to rid him of his wife, Elizabeth, by accusing her of witchcraft.

Abigail's flaws include dishonesty and selfishness.  Out of her dedication to John and her determination to justify herself to the community, Abigail tells  lies that result in the death and imprisonment of many people.  She selfishly puts her desire to be with John over the well-being of countless others, essentially murdering them to gain power for herself.

Abigail is motivated by love/lust and a desire for power.  When Parris asks her, at the beginning of the play, if her name is entirely "white" in the town, Abigail becomes instantly angry and defensive, insisting that there is no "blush" on her reputation (a lie).  She wants to gain power in the community so that she can punish those she believes to have wronged her as well as to eliminate those who she believes stand in the way of her relationship with John.

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