Hester Prynne, Nathanial Hawthorne’s character from his novel, The Scarlet Letter, and Abigail Williams, from “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller, have both committed a crime and they are both hated by their societies. However, there are also differences between the two characters. Hester Prynne is the more respectable Puritan woman of the two because she did not commit as many sins as Abigail did, she was not as secretive about it, and her actions only affected herself and her child. Hester did sin horribly but it was not comparable to Abigail’s many ins.
The sins that Abigail were guilty of were wrath, avarice, lust, and envy, while Hester only committed lust. Hester’s adulterous behavior was considered one of the worst sins of the Puritan women. Although that was an awful sin to have committed, Abigail committed a sin of the same kind and more. Abigail and Hester both knew that what they did was wrong. Hester took the blame and did not lie about what happened. Abigail lied and made her friends lie just so she would not get in trouble for her sin. Abigail’s ehavior and involvement of others created a more complex reason to judge her as less respectable of the two.
Hester was not secretive about committing her crime as Abigail was. Abigail is even described as “an orphan with an endless capacity for dissembling” (page 9). This proves that she tried to cover up her actions. Hester did not try to hide the fact from the townspeople that she was pregnant; she only tried to conceal the identity of the father of her baby. Abigail, on the other hand, made sure that the citizens of Salem did not find ut that she and her friends had been lying when they accused many innocent people of witchcraft.
She even went as far as to threaten John Proctor by telling him that if he told, she would have him and his wife hanged. She also threatened her friends many times throughout the novel. At one point, she said “Let any of you breathe a word about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you” (page 20). If Abigail’s friends told he truth, she would carry out her threats. Most importantly, Hester’s actions only hurt herself, her child, and their reputations.
When Hester committed adultery, the people in town were not affected by it, and she was the only one punished. However, Abigail’s fault punished many people including herself, her friends, John and Elizabeth Proctor, and the innocent people who were hanged. These townspeople were hanged unjustly because Abigail was a lying and deceitful person. Because Hester’s actions hurt fewer people, Abigail has less respectability. Admittedly, both women committed crimes, Hester would be the better of the two Puritan women.
Neither Hester Prynne nor Abigail Williams were respectable Puritan woman because of their sins, but of the two, Hester should be considered more honorable. If these women acted today as they did 300 years ago, they would be judged much differently. No one would be hanged, no one would have to suffer public humiliation, and it probably would not matter if the whole town knew about it. Regardless of the time era, the trial of Hester’s sins compared to Abigail’s made her more respectable.