Empowerment of three main characters in The Crucible
During ‘The Crucible’ the acts which unfold able some characters to empower themselves: most notably Abigail Williams, Mary Warren and even John Proctor. Some characters begin with little or no power, then abuse the situations to gain power, whereas others begin with power and lose it, sometimes justly and other times unjustly. This could be seen as a moral message for the audiences of the play, warning of power abuse which could lead to devastating consequences.
In the introductory comments, Miller comments before the events begin to unfold how “…the children were anything but thankful for being permitted to walk straight” which shows before the witchcraft trials and accusations had begun, children were powerless under the authority of the male dominated society -children had no power to roam freely.
One of the people that gained power in the play is Mary Warren, who is a servant and so is one of the lowest ranks of the Puritan society- much like the children of Salem.
At first she does not have any power at all as she is taught that she has to follow orders from the Proctors, who she works for. This is seen when she “lept” with “fright” upon Proctors entrance. Yet, she manages to turn from a “mouse” to a “daughter of a prince” as she suddenly gains power from working in the court, trying possible witches. Her increasing power is also shown from her defiance of Proctor when she refuses his order of not going to “court again”, and responds that she “must” and “will be gone everyday”.
It also shown through stage directions, when Mary is “terrified” of Proctor but quickly becomes “erect”, which highlights her ability to overcome her fear of Proctor because of her growing confidence and power. Mary even manages to intimidate Proctor in this part of the play. When threatened with the “whip” from Proctor, she manages to threaten him further by responding “I would have you speak civilly to me, from this out. ” Mary, filled with this newly found power, is able to threaten Procter to stop beating her or she will not speak so highly of his family next time.
By using the phrase “from this out” shows that Mary doesn’t usually expect that kind of treatment from the Proctor, yet now she is able to demand it because of the power gain. Again, further on in the play Mary is also able to “numb” Proctor when she overthrows his “grip” on her to tell the truth about the accusations, and instead turns on him. When pressured by Abigail and the other girls, once they start accusing Mary to save themselves, she is not able to stand her ground – which highlights her feebleness and weakness which was seen at the very start of the play.
This is seen as she even admits she has “no power”. This links to her inferior position in the society and even within her social group, she is not popular, and respected. This is shown when Abigail tells Mary to “shut it” and Mercy Lewis starts “pointing” and “looking” at Mary as if she were to blame. However, the fact that Mary was able to then accuse Proctor of being “devil’s man”, who is a highly respected in the village, shows that she does have more power than she started with. But she is abusing her power, to save herself and because of her lack of power on her social circle.
So, this once ‘innocent’ girl who thought they “must tell the truth” took advantage of the situation so she and her friends would not be “whipped”. Overall, Mary arguably, has the most progressive power of all the girls and possibly all of the characters in ‘The Crucible’, but that’s not to say she has the most power overall. Another character like Mary Warren who gains power throughout the play is Abigail Williams. Once shunned and scorned by the inhabitants of the village because of her “blackened name”, Abigail becomes a domineering power, and is treated like a “saint”.
A mere accusation from Abigail or one of her girls is enough to convict even a well-respected inhabitant of Salem like Rebecca Nurse who does “great charities”. Even though in present day we would associate “saint” with good Samaritans, which would seem absurd to see Abigail called this in present day, she was seen in this way because in puritan society if you went against god, you went against the law. So Abigail’s act of bringing Salem’s attention to the presence of the devil, and then through the court eradicating it was seen as an act of greatness.
Abigail starts off as a scared young girl which is seen through Millers stage directions, as she “quavers” when being questioned by Parris about Betty’s mysterious illness. However, soon she is able to assert her power of the girls by “smashing” Betty round the face and threatening all the girls not to tell anyone about the events of the previous night, or she will “come” to them at the “black of one terrible night”. This implies they could be her prey, and if they make a wrong move she could pounce on them, which again puts her in a domineering position.
This characteristic allows her to control within the group which creates more tension because Abigail also seems to be possessive which is seen when she says “Now look you. All of you”. The repetition of “you” makes the phrase quite aggressive and short commanding sentences have a strong impact, and make Abigail seem hostile but ultimately powerful. Her empowerment is also documented as the inhabitants of Salem think the “sea parts like Israel” for Abigail, so her sins are overlooked, as people take her word to be an expression of “God’s will.
” This allowed Abigail to control and manipulate even the most powerful men in Salem, which is seen when Abigail threatens that Danforth- a high court official. So, Abigail Williams, who was once powerless in general society, is a perfect example of someone who became empowered by deciding the fate of other people and, by controlling and threatening people. Although, Abigail did have a powerful status among her social group from the outset and throughout which is shown when she starts “pointing with fear” and accusing Mary of “hurting her”, and quickly all the girls chime in with her.
The third character who is subtly empowered is John Proctor. Despite his prideful ways, John Proctor describes himself as a “sinner. ” His conversation with Elizabeth in act two where he exclaims for Elizabeth to “judge him not” demonstrated his internal conflict and his own unwillingness to forgive himself for his act of lechery. There are moments when his anger and disgust towards himself burst forth, such as when he exclaims to Judge Danforth: “I hear the boot of Lucifer, I see his filthy face! And it is my face, and yours. ” So, although it is not clear from the outset that John Proctor has been empowered, he has.
He is able for the first time to “see some shred of goodness” in himself- his relief from his constant guilt- when he decides to deny his confession. In conclusion, all three characters were empowered through the play, which led to the unjust killing of numerous inhabitants of Salem through the false allegations of witchcraft. So, Miller uses this to show the audience the consequence of abuse of power. Abigail is the best example because she falls from her position of high power, and resorts to boarding a “ship”, in order to escape.
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