Character Of Abigail Williams in The Crucible
Power is the ability to control the behavior of others or a course of events. It is what allows a society to be peaceful and safe. However, when people gain an excessive amount, they can use it to destroy peace and cause chaos. One example of the misuse of power is the Salem witch trials in the Massachusetts Bay Colony during 1692 and 1693. During which, more than 200 got accused of practicing witchcraft, and 20 executed with no evidence. The Crucible is a dramatization of the Salem witch trials. Arthur Miller, an American Playwright in the 20th century, wrote the play as an allegory to McCarthyism, when the US government blacklisted accused communists. Throughout The Crucible, the audience sees dramatic changes in the characters with the desire to preserve and gain influence as the witch trials continue. Miller uses a young girl named Abigail Williams, who has the authority to prosecute anyone she desires, to show the dangers of placing power in the wrong hands. On the other hand, Tituba, a black slave, remains helpless during the entirety of the play. Through the use of the characters Abigail and Tituba in The Crucible, it is evident that empowering a wrong person can lead to the destruction of a society.
Abigail is the most dominant character in The Crucible. She uses her cunning ways and manipulation to get things done. In act one, 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." Here, she is threatening to harm the girls if they speak about witchcraft. This quote shows how she creates an atmosphere of intimidation and controls the girls according to her will (Miller 575). After Tituba confesses to witchcraft, Abigail takes the opportunity to make her name better. She says, "I want to open myself!...I want the light of God, I want the sweet love of Jesus! I danced for the Devil; I saw him, I wrote in his book; I go back to Jesus; I kiss His hand. I saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw Goody Osburn with the Devil! I saw Bridget Bishop with the Devil!" She sees confessing to witchcraft as a way for her to get negative attention away from her. She manipulated those with power over her by confirming their worst fears and gave them a reason to pity her. She allowed them to save her and protect her from the Devil, which is their moral duty (Miller 595). In the third act, Abigail is quick to make up a story to divert attention away from her. She says, "Why—? She gulps. Why do you come, yellow bird?" When Hale accuses her of lying, she traps Mary Warren to save herself. This line shows she is very crafty and untrustworthy and is willing to get her friend Mary Warren in trouble for selfish reasons (Miller 651). Abigail is the perfect example of power in the wrong hands. She gained a reputation through lies and used it to ruin lives. Excessive power is dangerous and can lead to the destruction of a community, and Abigail's actions are evidence of that.
In contrast, Tituba is the weakest character in the play. As a black woman and slave, her status is the lowest in Salem, which makes her the perfect scapegoat. In act one, Tituba was the first character to get accused of witchcraft. Abigail says, "Sometimes I wake and find myself standing in the open doorway and not a stitch on my body! I always hear her laughing in my sleep. I hear her singing her Barbados songs and tempting me with—" without any evidence, but everyone still believes her baseless lies over Tituba. Tituba speaking a foreign language is used against her. The people of Salem see it as communication with the Devil (Miller 582). In the same act, Parris threaten Tituba, "You will confess yourself or I will take you out and whip you to your death, Tituba!" She is forced into confessing to witchcraft. Because she is a slave, she has no power or freedom of her own and has to do everything the white people tell her. She knows that her reputation is too low to withstand the accusations of being a witch and the only way she will survive is to confess (Miller 592). In the last act, The audience sees Tituba stuck in Jail. She says, "Oh, there is no Hell in Barbados. Devil, he is a pleasure man in Barbados, he is singing’ and dancing’ in Barbados. It’s you folks - you riles him up ’round here; it be too cold ’round here for that Old Boy. He froze his soul in Massachusetts, but in Barbados he was just as sweet". After being mistreated in the cold prison for a long time, Tituba sees that she has nothing left to lose. She decides to have fun with the idea of her being the Devil's underling and show the Devil in a different light. She recognizes the culture in Salem as overly oppressive and feels that the Devil is provoked into mischief by the pretense of the citizens of Salem (Miller 662). Tituba is an example of an inferior person in the community. She is the easiest to pick on and blame. Miller uses her to show how the disturbance initially began, Tituba is responsible for creating panic, but the audience knows that she got forced into lying because of society’s pressure. Miller believes our fear of communism has no basis because it is the few influential people that create panic.
To conclude, Arthur Miller uses The Crucible to show the effects of empowering a wrong person like Abigail. Within this play, the audience got to see the true colors of Abigail unraveling with each act. She used coercive measures and abused her powers to destroy lives, and Tituba was a victim of it. At the end of the play, the whole of Salem was in disarray, which is evidence of the empowerment of a wicked person could destroy a community.