A Quality Abigail Williams Character Analysis
Abigail’s character is the vessel that sets the play in motion. She is an unmarried and orphaned girl working as a helper to the Proctor family. Abigail is also the niece to Reverend Parris. She is the one most responsible for the meeting between the girls and Tituba within the forest at midnight. When their activities are discovered by Reverend Parris, she tries to keep her behavior a secret since it might lead to the revelation of the affair she had with Proctor.
That is in case she admits to bewitching Elizabeth Proctor. Abigail is ready to lie in order to hide her adulterous affair as well as to avoid charges of witchcraft. What’s more, to avoid a heavy penalty for both adultery and witchcraft – not to mention possible attempted murder (she Plotted Elizabeth’s death) – Abigail deflects attention from herself through accusing other people of witchcraft. Such a desperate strategy for self-preservation eventually becomes Abigail’s source of power.
She is very different from Elizabeth. The two are far opposites of each other. Abigail is a representation of the inhibited human desires, both material and sexual, that are possessed by all Puritans. The only difference in Abigail is that the acts out her desires without any remorse. She develops an attraction to Proctor while working as a servant in his home. From a Puritan perspective, this attraction constitutes lust, which is a big sin. However, Abigail was unable to acknowledge the sin and repent. Instead, she does the exact opposite. She continues pursuing Proctor and ultimately seduces him.
Abigail’s readiness to ignore Puritan social norms differentiates her from the rest of the cast, and eventually precipitates her downfall. She is independent-minded, believing that she can achieve whatever she wants. Nothing or nobody is beyond her grasp. Typically, such admirable traits lead to a zeal for life and creative thinking. Nevertheless, Abigail does not have a conscience that can keep her restrained. In the end, she sees no deceit in her adulterous affair with Elizabeth’s husband, Mr. Proctor. Surprisingly, Abigail hates Elizabeth because she is the only obstacle standing between Proctor and her.
Abigail has been brooding over her sexual meeting with Proctor for about seven months. As she thinks more about her affair to Proctor, Abigail becomes more certain that Proctor is in love with her, but he is withholding his feelings because of Elizabeth. Abigail continuously reviews and recreates her memories until they precisely portray her as the focal point of Proctor’s life. Instead of self-reflecting on herself as a broken 17-year-old who exploited a man’s insecurities and loneliness while his wife was ailing, Abigail views herself as the true love to Proctor. She feels that she only needs to get rid of Elizabeth in order to get married to Proctor and actualize her fantasy.
The fantasies harbored by Abigail reflect her age. She is still a youthful girl who fancies the ideal male. Nevertheless, she exhibits intelligent insight & strategic capabilities that show a maturity more advanced compared to other characters. By alleging witchcraft, Abigail can instantly gain recognition and status in Salem. This translates to Power and influence. She uses her newfound authority to create an environment of intimidation and fear. Abigail even threatens violence on the other girls in case they fail to play along with her scheme. Moreover, she has no qualms about accusing them of witchcraft if she senses disloyalty. This is what happened in Mary Warren’s case.
Abigail hatches a painstaking plan to get Proctor into her hands and will stop at nothing to ensure her plans are successful. Part of this scheme includes solidifying her credibility in the eyes of the court and after that, getting rid of Elizabeth. To achieve this plot, Abigail needs cold calculation. Therefore, she meticulously chooses the victims that she accuses to boost her credibility. For instance, she initially accuses the local vagrant and drunk, under the full knowledge that they are already predisposed to conviction by the community. With every arrest, Abigail’s social standing rises, and her demonstrations of trances and fits only enhance her power.
Her resolution to be patient until the court considers her unquestionable before accusing Elizabeth of witchcraft showcases her zeal and infatuation with Proctor. This girl does not consider the fact that she is condemning incident people to death. According to her, these individuals are merely tools that she uses to achieve her plan.
At the play’s end, after Abigail realizes that her mission is unsuccessful and that she has inadvertently condemned Proctor to death, she still exhibits a similar cold indifference that drives her actions all through the entire play. Abigail decides to run away from Salem and leaves Proctor with no chance of survival.