Comparing the characters of Abigail and Mangum

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Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ is a play that tells the story of a Harlem community torn apart by the behavior of some of the members who decide to stray away from societal norms. The play revolves around the consequences of the behavior of certain characters whose hidden agendas lead to the destruction of the lives of others. One such character is Abigail Williams, a deceitful, selfish, manipulative, and conniving woman whose selfish actions lead to the death of nineteen people. On the other hand, ‘Fantastic Lies’ is a documentary by Marina Zenovich detailing how three lacrosse players from Duke University were accused of raping a stripper. The three athletes were subjected to public ridicule and judgment as the prosecutor and the media publicly smeared the accused and already termed them as guilty. At the center of the scandal was Crystal Mangum, the stripper who accused the three teammates of raping her. Crystal’s allegations cause dramatic changes to the lives of three young men whose only fault was hiring a stripper who had personal problems and was seeking to cause harm to others. In this case, Abigail and Crystal are two characters who are strangely similar in that they are both women who use their sexuality to cause trouble to others, but are different in that one has the ability to feel remorse while the other is completely devoid of emotion.

One of the similarities between Abigail and Crystal is that they are very good liars. According to Miller, when working at the Proctor home, Abigail seduces and ends up having an affair with John Proctor when his wife, Elizabeth Proctor is ill (18). However, when she realizes that Proctor will not leave his wife for her, she gets involved in witchcraft in order to cast a spell on Elizabeth and eliminate her. When she is caught dancing in the forest as part of the witchcraft ritual, Abigail lies and forces the other girls to lie about being involved in witchcraft and frames Tituba instead (Miller 15).

Similarly, by showing videos of Magnum making the accusations in 2006 and detailing how the case was eventually thrown out, Zenovivh shows that Mangum was lying about being raped by the lacrosse athletes during the party. Crystal, an African-African woman had been invited alongside another woman of the same race to strip-dance at a party organized by the male lacrosse team of Duke University. However, according to Zenovich, Mangum reported a case of rape, sexual, and physical abuse the following morning, accusing Dave Evans, Reade Seligmann, and Collin Finnerty of the crimes. However, as it would eventually turn out, the DNA collected from Magnum did not match any of the accused and in fact, belonged to three different men with whom Mangum had had sexual relations that week.

The other similarity between Abigail and Mangum is that they both belong to a lower social class in the society. In the case of Abigail, she is an orphan and is also unmarried, two factors that place her at the bottom of the social class in the society (Miller 6-15). The implication here is that she is totally powerless and worthless, and that is why she is employed as a servant in John Proctor’s house. When the townsfolk learn of her affair with Proctor, they publicly shun and scorn her. When she acquires power due to witchcraft, she executes her revenge by making sure that she gets even the most respected members of the society to be convicted of various crimes and even sentenced to death.

On her part, Mangum is an African-American single mother in Durham who is forced to work a stripper in order to make a living. Ironically, being a college student herself, Mangum is invited to strip dance for a group of fellow college students belonging to a lacrosse team that is known for being extravagant, entitled, and throwing wild parties. All the players, except one, are privileged white Americans studying at the prestigious Duke University located in Durham, thus casting a social contrast with the predominant black community characterized by hardship and poverty. According to Zenovich, when the team members have a disagreement with Mangum during the party and allegedly abuse her verbally, she feels that their behavior is fuelled by racism and white privilege. Consequently, just like Abigail, she takes out her frustrations on other people as she decides to frame the three athletes for a crime as serious as rape just to get back at them.

Despite the similarities between the two characters, one major difference is that while Abigail seems completely devoid of any human emotion, Mangum is a bit more compassionate. Abigail is portrayed as being completely remorseless seeing as she has no reservations about whom she frames, going as far as framing Proctor for the problems she has caused, thus condemning him to hang (Miler 116). According to Zenovich, even though Mangum continues insisting that her accusations against the three athletes were true and that the state does not care for her, she apologizes for any harm she may have caused. In this case, while Abigail reveals her total lack of humanity, Mangum is somewhat different as she acknowledges that her actions may have negatively changed the lives of other people.

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  1. Fantastic Lies. Directed by Marina Zenovich, performances by Crystal Mangum, Joe Alleva, Jackie Brown, and Dave Evans. ESPN Films, 2016.
  2. Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. NY: Heinemann, 1992.
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