A Feminist Theory of ‘The Crucible’
A limited time offer! Get a custom sample essay written according to your requirements urgent 3h delivery guaranteedOrder Now
In The Crucible, gender plays an important role in how the story comes together. Abigail, the main antagonist in the play, is a young, unmarried woman who is also an orphan. She resents being a servant, the only opportunity offered to a young, unmarried girl. It shows the limited opportunities for women of that age. The whole frenzy and hysteria brought about by the witch trials begins when Abigail and the other girls involved in the dancing in the forest accuse others in the village of being witches. Abigail and the other girls gain a huge amount of power and authority during the witch trials than they would have done in normal village life, as young unmarried girls usually did not have a say in anything, e.g. they would have had to obey their employer and master of the house and were not considered to be women until they were married and had a family of their own and so would not have been taken seriously.
A married woman held more power and respect in society than unmarried women and they also had a voice. This seems to suggest women cannot attain or hold power without men. The book also suggests that women should not be in a position of too much power as they are likely to misuse it and they are prone to let their feelings get in the way of important matters, leading to disaster and chaos, as it is portrayed in the story. Abigail gains the position of the leader of the other girls and is proclaimed a saint, so everything she says is immediately assumed to be the truth, but at the same time she abuses her power, using her ability to manipulate and control.
Mary Warren: ……..You must see it, sir, it’s God’s work we do. So I’ll be gone everyday for some time. I’m – I am an official of the court, they say, and I- Proctor: I’ll official you! (He strides to the mantel, takes down the whip hanging there.) Mary Warren (terrified, but coming erect, striving for her authority): I’ll not stand whipping anymore. The other girls gain the power and authority to condemn others and as they have never had that amount of power before, as most of them work for other families, they use it for greed and personal gain.
Abigail (with a bitter laugh): Oh I marvel how such a strong man may let such a sickly wife be- Proctor (angered –at himself as well):You’ll speak nothin’ of Elizabeth! Abigail: She is blackening my name in the village! She is telling lies about me! She is a cold, sniveling woman and you bend to her! Let her turn you like a- Abigail assumes the role of a jealous lover and her intense love for John Proctor, as well as her intense hatred for Elizabeth get out of hand and become a destructive force. She allows her hatred, anger, jealousy and lust to overcome reason and this ultimately causes a lot of despair in Salem. Her emotions play a key role in determining how she acts. Just like Eve, when she becomes tempted by the Devil into eating the apple, which is a symbol of knowledge and power, she is tempted into power by accusing others of crimes they did not commit, leading them to their deaths. Women are easily tempted by the Devil, while men are rational creatures of God, therefore men were more likely to gain the upper hand when it came to rules and laws and how things were to be done. In the village, men dominate and hold power.
Adam was not fooled by the Devil but Eve was easily led astray and that quickly led to her undoing and punishment. There is a connection between Eve and Abby’s own fate as because of Eve, women were not trusted with positions of power and giving power over to a woman was not considered to be wise, as God did not intend for them to be leaders, caretakers or guardians but rather as people to be guarded and watched over carefully, both out of protection and suspicion. Abigail as a woman in power is a force of death and destruction. She manipulates and threatens the girls in order to control them and begins accusing other women of witchcraft, possibly to take revenge on the men in the community by taking away their loved ones and with the same intent of destroying Elizabeth Proctor, she also wants to destroy the other women. The Crucible portrays Abby as the siren in the story.
She is a beautiful, young woman who charms the ‘innocent’ John Proctor away from his wife and away from God. It seems as though it was by no fault of his own though as the reader cannot help but feel sympathy towards him and perhaps this has something to do with the way his gender is portrayed. We hear about his affair but can easily sympathize with him as he shows himself to be a man of strong principles and morals and we know that he feels guilty about what he did as he tries his best to make up for it. It shows how easily men fall into the traps of women, which is a sign of innocence as well as weakness. John Proctor regains control over himself in the end which is a sign of strength as well as redemption. Abby seems to have no redeemable qualities or morals and does not seem to regret the things she has done. It suggests that there will be no redemption for her. Giles: Mr Hale, I have always wanted to ask a learned man – what signifies the readin’ of strange books? Hale: What books?
Giles: I cannot tell; she hides them.
Hales: Who does this?
Giles: Martha, my wife. I have waked at night many a time and found her in a corner, readin’ of a book. Now what do you make of that? Hale: Why, that’s not necessarily-
Giles: It discomforts me! Last night – mark this – I tried and tried and could not say my prayers. And then she close her books and walks out of the house, and suddenly – mark this – I could pray again! Martha Corey is accused of witchcraft because her husband said she was reading ‘strange books’. He saw it as unnecessary for a woman to read books. This attitude towards women suggests that the actual sin was having the ability to read books and be educated. It was equally unusual and strange to taking part in witchcraft, as that is what she is accused of later in the play.
This also refers to the preference that women ought to have a passive role in society and not become too high for her husband. This shows how women and knowledge are seen as not going well together and not looked highly upon and that signs of curiosity in a woman is dangerous. It shows that Puritan society had a fear of those who were unusual and not conventional, those who did not meet the standards of ‘ordinary’ society. The witch hunts, while a dark time for some, was an opportunity for those, such as women, to gain a voice which they otherwise would not have been able to do before.