Honors English 3
14 September 2018
Women in Puritan Society
Puritan women had very strict laws that they had to follow closely or they would be punished. For example, they had to dress modestly, covering their hair and arms or they would be stripped to the waist of their clothing and whipped till their back was bloody. In Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, readers see deeper into the lifestyle of Puritans as they go through the accusations of the Salem witch trials. Through their actions, attitudes, and dialogue, the three main female characters portray more than just a Puritan woman. Abigail Williams, Elizabeth Proctor, and Mary Warren are used to show that, although Puritans may think women are simple minded and meek, they are actually complex, intelligent women with unique strengths.
The role of the women in the play was central to the plot. Abigail says, “. . . 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!” (Miller, 48) The focus was on Abigail and the rest of the girls while they are being pressed to tell what actually happened in the woods. They were the instigators and the victims. The girls knew they were not actually possessed but they were clever enough to catch onto Abigail and trick the men into thinking they were. Abigail admits to them practicing “witchcraft” in the woods: “We did dance, uncle, and when you leaped out of the bush so suddenly, Betty Parris was frightened and then she fainted. And there?’s the whole of it.” (Miller, 10) If the girls had not been caught dancing in the woods, they would not have had to be forced to lie about other people being “with the devil”. The group was quick on their feet to think of a reason why Betty might have fallen ill and to avoid the truth of their actual actions. The women’s position in the play was easy for them to outwit the men.
Puritan women were not treated very well, they were not even considered an equal gender with man. John Proctor did not agree to let Mary Warren go into town: “Why?’d you let her? You heard me forbid her go to Salem any more.” (Miller, 52) Proctor was mad with Elizabeth for allowing Mary Warren to leave when she was not the head of the household, she did not have that power. Mary Warren left to go to real court, the situation had gotten too big and real judges were brought in. If the girls were to keep acting possessed the women were likely to be convicted. Proctor says, “Mary. Is it true? There be fourteen women arrested?” (Miller, 56) Mary had came back from court with information about what happened. Witchcraft was deemed as a woman’s evil. No men were convicted, but thirty nine women were. The ignorance of people in this time shows how easy it was for people to believe women were lesser than men.
Mary Warren portrayed as an innocent girl that is taken advantage of by Abigail. “I–I cannot tell how, but I did. I–I heard the other girls screaming, and you, Your Honor, you seemed to believe them, and I–it were only sport in the beginning,sir, but then the whole world cried spirits, spirits, and I–I promise you, Mr. Danforth, I only thought I saw them but I did not.” (Miller, 107). Mary Warren confessed to just pretending about being “possessed by the devil” but the other girls in the room kept acting, Mary had realized that convicting a bunch of innocent people was wrong and tried to put a stop to it but was outnumbered. Abigail had built up too solid of a case for Mary to bring down herself.
Abigail is a clear antagonist – she is portrayed as the villian. Cheever says, “The girl, the Williams girl, Abi-gail Williams, sir. She sat to dinner in Reverend Parris?’s house tonight, and without word nor warnin?’ she falls to the floor. . . stuck two inches in the flesh of her belly, he draw a needle out. And demandin?’ of her how she come to be so stabbed, she testify it -were your wife?’s familiar spirit pushed it in.” (Miller, 74) Abigail is still in love with John but he has told her that it is over. She frames Elizabeth for having a poppet and stabbing it. Abigail will do whatever it takes to get what she wants. She lives in a strict religious society so she knows adultery is wrong yet she continues to pursue John. Abigail has very little respect for others: “She made me do it! She made Betty do it!” (Miller, 43) Tituba was leading the girls in dances in the woods. Although the girls wanted to participate Tituba is said to have forced them and takes the overall fall. Abigail has no remorse for the people around her, she falsely accuses more than 20 people, 19 of which lost their lives.