Breton Dancing Girls and The Crucible

8:00 AM

Paul Gauguin, Breton Dancing Girls, 1888
"Now listen, you. We danced. And Tituba conjured Ruth Putnam's dead sisters. And that is all. And mark this. Let any of you breathe a word or the edge of a word about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night. I saw the Indians smash my dear parents heads on the pillow next to mine, I have seen some reddish work done at night, and I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down." - Arthur Miller, The Crucible

Using what seemed a collective plea for justice, Abagail Williams led her friends in hand to hand treachery. In Breton Girls Dancing, Paul Gauguin paints three young women, dancing in a circle. One on the left, Mary Warren, reaches away, attempting to pull from the loop of untruths while Betty, pictured in the center, looks to Abagail for direction. Abagail Williams smirks toward the ground, the earth, the devil - er paradigm throughout Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.

Abagail’s isolation from the rest of the group becomes evident in her apron, a different color from the other girls. The only blonde of the group, Abagail also holds the hands of both girls, indicating her control over the entire circle. Her pull alone dictates the direction of the girls.

Gauguin’s bold vertical line created by the steeple in the background visually separates Mary from the other two girls, emphasizing the divide created by Mary’s initial disloyalty to the church. The diagonal line descending from the top left corner opposed by the ascending line in the bottom left indicate Mary’s two potential paths: up to the green hills, or down with the rest of her comrades. Abagail and Betty, however, look to the right, where the hay will inevitably meet the falling hill and continue downwards. Even the dark cloud in the background halts just before Mary’s head, leaving her the only one with potential for escape from the vicious cycle.

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