Stories are such fascinating subjects, as they seem to create worlds in a completely new universe or be set in the past so long ago that people can no longer remember it. In every story, there is protagonists and antagonists. The antagonist always go against the protagonist, bringing the conflict in the story. Along with the fact of bringing conflict into the story, he or she also has a highly significant role in the development of the protagonist. The story than can end in two different ways. It can end with the protagonist finally defeating the antagonist after overcoming both physical and mental obstacles.
The other way is that after struggling throughout his or her life, the protagonist, in the end, can not stop the antagonist and dies or otherwise becomes unable to oppose the antagonist. The novel, The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, is the latter type of a story as the protagonist, John Proctor, struggles against Abigail Williams, who opposes him in numerous ways such as ruining his wife, manipulating people and situations, and avoiding all accusations at fault in any way possible, showing her to be the main antagonist of the story; all of this is needed for Miller to show the true depravity of human nature, and in return, the so-called good does not triumph over evil.
Abigail reveals traits of antagonism when she tries to get rid of Elizabeth Proctor, John Proctor’s wife, in order to try to keep him for herself, showing the depravity of humans. In the argument between Betty and Abigail when Betty finally woke up, it is revealed to the audience that [Abigail] drank blood…to kill John Proctor’s wife(18). While Abigail did not succeed in killing Elizabeth Proctor with that method, the fact stands that she did such an act with malicious thoughts in mind. It showed her need to cause conflict and get rid of things in her way through any means possible, although the success rate was very low.
Even though it didn’t seem to do much in the whole of the story, it was perhaps the very starting point of the cause of the witch trial hysteria. Once Abigail realizes that the charm to kill Goody Proctor by drinking blood didn’t work, she then gets a warrant for [Elizabeth Proctor]…[charging] a cruel and murder on Abigail(69,72). Abigail shows her ruthlessness and lack of empathy through these actions, as she gets the wife of the man she so calls loves in order to try to get together with him, although she was repeatedly rejected by John Proctor previously. Through these actions, she creates one of the main events of the book, as John Proctor later does anything and everything he can in order to get his wife proved innocent and released from jail. Abigail’s need for getting rid of Elizabeth Proctor shows that Abigail is the antagonist of this book as it shows her trying to get rid of someone very dear to the protagonist, John Proctor, and thus, creates a conflict between them.
Throughout the book, Abigail shows more proof of being the antagonist as she manipulates the people around her for her own personal gain and other’s misery, verifying the opinion of Miller that human nature is corrupt. The person Abigail most commonly manipulates is Mary Warren, who is likely an easy target due to the fact that she is a naive, lonely girl. One time Abigail has done such manipulations is when Mary testified against Abigail on the orders of John Proctor. Abigail pretends that she sees the familiar spirit of Mary and it attacks her. Knowing that she would be hanged for witchcraft on the accusations of Abigail, Mary then tries to save herself by saying Proctor is the Devil’s man(110) and that he manipulated her instead of Abigail.
This act shows how far Abigailr’s manipulations can go, as she caused the man she wanted to be with getting accused of dealing with the devil. It also further along with the trials John Proctor has to go through as now both him and his wife are imprisoned on the accusation of witchcraft. However, Abigail’s manipulations are also showed before this event has occurred. It happened when she saw Mary sew a poppet for Elizabeth Proctor and stick the needle into it to keep her safe. Once Abigail saw those actions, she created a plot in order to convince the court that Elizabeth tried to kill her with a needle stuck in her stomach with the claim being that [Elizabeth Proctor’s] familiar spirit pushed it in(71). With such manipulations set in place, very few people would believe in it being set up especially because of the time period the play was set in, as almost everyone during that time was superstitious with the beliefs of witchcraft and other highly illogical things.
The manipulations show Abigailr’s lack of morals as she, without hesitation, made others think that someone attempted murder with witchcraft, knowing that it would only end in death for the accused. It reveals that Abigail is the antagonist as she repeatedly exploits other’s weaknesses in order to fulfill her own goals, and in return, create the conflict in the play as John Proctor tries to stop Abigail and make everyone see that she is in the wrong, not the ones being accused by her.
In order to avoid the consequences of her mistakes, Abigail makes it so others take the blame or run away from her problems, which both affirms her position as the antagonist and the perverseness of human nature. This is first shown in the beginning of the play, as Reverend Parris suspects of her to be doing witchcraft in the woods along with dancing. In order to avoid the consequences of her actions, she lies and says that she [goes] back to Jesus [and] saw Sarah Good with the Devil(45) among many other names. A truly good person would accept their punishments for their actions, and as shown, Abigail does not. Instead, she blames others in an attempt for them to take on her punishment, and it works.
Everyone in town is driven into hysteria as people are being accused everywhere and soon, dozens of people are contained in jail to be hanged soon. This is the very start of the conflict in the play, and it is due to Abigail and the other such girls that danced in the woods trying to get out of punishment. Later again in the play, it is shown again that Abigail does not face the repercussions of her actions face on. As she realized her actions caused John Proctor to be jailed and later be sentenced to death, instead of confessing, she ran off in fear to keep in Salem(117). Her running off shows how much responsibility she has, which is none. She practically started the craze of witchcraft in Salem single-handedly and ran off before it was realized by the other citizens. Her lack of responsibility for her actions show how far humanity has declined as she caused many to die and yet does not stand up for her actions, which makes her seem to be the antagonist of the play as in the end, John Proctor dies due to her actions.
Miller shows how depraved humanity has gotten by how the antagonist, Abigail Williams, acts in order to create the conflict with the protagonist, John Proctor; she tries to get rid of his wife, manipulate everyone and everything, and in the end, runs away from the aftermath of the chaos she has created. An antagonist is someone who opposes the protagonist and as a result, brings the conflict into the story. The antagonist makes the protagonist develop throughout the story as he or she goes through mental and physical obstacles in order to defeat the antagonist. Unfortunately, not all of the time does the protagonist succeed in his or her actions; sometimes in the end, the antagonist wins.
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