reading The Crucible

Parris, studies her, then nods, half convinced: Abigail, I have fought here three long years to bend these stiff-necked people to me, and now, just now when some good respect is rising for me in the parish, you compromise my very character. I have given you a home, child, I have put clothes upon your back – now give me upright answer. Your name in the town – it is entirely white, is it not?

Abigail, with an edge of resentment1: Why, I am sure it is, sir. There be no blush about my name.

Parris, to the point: Abigail, is there any other cause than you have told me, for your being discharged from Goody Proctor’s service? I have heard it said, and I tell you as I heard it, that she comes so rarely to the church this year for she will not sit so close to something soiled. What signified that remark?

Abigail: She hates me, uncle, she must, for I would not be her slave. It’s a bitter woman, a lying, cold, sniveling woman, and I will not work for such a woman!2

Parris: She may be. And yet it has troubled me that you are now seven month out of their house, and in all this time no other family has ever called for your service.

Abigail: They want slaves, not such as I. Let them send to Barbados for that. I will not black my face for any of them! With ill-concealed resentment at him3: Do you begrudge my bed, uncle?

Parris: No – no.

Abigail, in a temper4: My name is good in the village! I will not have it said my name is soiled! Goody Proctor is a gossiping liar!

  1. I’m interested in Abigail’s indignation and the conflation of black/white/red imagery with sex and race/servitude ↩︎
  2. Here it is again… ↩︎
  3. And again… ↩︎
  4. And again. Abigail, because she is female in a patriarchal society, occupies a position that is proximal to both servitude and the fear of unsanctioned sex. Unfortunately for the town, because she has given in to the one, she is seen as no longer fit for the other, and, in reaction to her rejection, she goes on to unleash the full power of her assigned shame by way of the town’s hypocrisy. ↩︎