Abigail Williams from The Crucible by Arthur Miller, and Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of Theranos, both lied to gain fame and respect. They knew their actions were hurting people and were far from the truth, but they continued to expand their lies. Within both stories, the main characters are purposefully creating problems that result in making a situation far worse than what was expected. The issues within the two stories eventually got out of control, and the main characters were exposed for their reckless actions. When a person begins to harm others in the pursuit of a higher status, they have a larger impact and contribute to a systemic problem.
These people take advantage of their situation and those around them for their own personal benefit. Elizabeth Holmes was a young entrepreneur who lied her way to fame. She knew her machines did not work and gave out false results, but she continued her testing because they brought her fame and respect. According to the journalist, “Holmes and Balwani knew their analyzer had accuracy and reliability problems, performed a limited number of tests, was slower than some competing devices, and, in some respects, could not compete with existing conventional machines” (“Theranos”). This emphasizes the fact that the Theranos company knew what they were doing was illegal and only continued to advertise the machines to benefit themselves. The false results Holmes’ machines gave out harmed the lives of thousands in the process. Holmes continued to expand her company, knowingly committing fraud. Elizabeth deepened her voice to seem more masculine and gain respect in the business world. The way she presented herself professionally tricked the world into believing she was the next revolutionary in the medical field.
As with Elizabeth Holmes, Abigail Williams had also taken advantage of a situation for her own personal benefit. She was a young girl in Salem whose uncle was the town’s reverend. She was treated like a child and craved the respect she believed she deserved. While working with the Proctor family, she slept with John Proctor and began to obsess over him. When she began to dream of marrying him, she started to believe that she needed to get rid of Elizabeth Proctor, his wife. When John Proctor was in court, he confessed, “I have known her, sir. I have known her” (Miller 110). When Elizabeth (Goody) was questioned, she denied the affair to save her husband’s name. Abigail knew there were no witches in Salem, but pretended there were to try and have Goody Proctor killed. She knew those she had accused were innocent people, and she knew that accusing them would lead to their deaths. The town praised her for her bravery to accuse the witches, and as Elizabeth Proctor described, “where she walks the crowd will part like the sea for Israel” (Miller 52-53). This biblical allusion proves how Abigail was seen as an important figure in the town. The Puritans in Salem are well known for their religion being highly respected, and this proved her level of worship by comparing Abigail to a high status, religious figure. Abigail enjoyed being powerful and respected within the community, and continued to accuse anyone who tried to stop her. She used their fears to take advantage of the situation.
When a person is manipulative and is able to convince a mass of people to believe they are trustworthy, they add to the systemic problem. Holmes presented herself professionally and had everyone believing that she made a medical breakthrough with her Theranos machines. She was described as wearing “black turtlenecks in blatant imitation of Steve Jobs. She handled her elders the way a snake charmer handles snakes” (Carreyrou). In order to gain respect, Holmes not only faked her technology, she faked her appearance. She talked deeper than her normal voice and copied Steve Jobs’ appearance to seem more respectable. For sixteen years, Elizabeth tricked the entire world. Her entire career and billion dollar company were built off lies. Holmes’ actions are described as, “Holmes, no doubt, told them [the world] what they wanted to hear” (Carreyrou). This is the most accurate description of Elizabeth Holmes there is. She knew the results were inaccurate, but continued to sell her lie since it brought her fame and wealth.
Abigail Williams was also able to manipulate a large mass of people and appear trustworthy. She tricks the town into believing her almost instantly because religion is the center of their lives. When they heard accusations that the Devil is among them, the Puritans are frightened and want to eliminate the problem immediately. In Act One, Abigail is screaming to the reverends and the other girls, “I want to open myself! I want the light of God, I want the sweet love of Jesus! I danced for the Devil; I saw him; I wrote in his book; I go back to Jesus; I kiss his hand. I saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw Goody Osburn with the Devil! I saw Bridget Bishop with the Devil” (Miller 48). To this, Putnam says, “The marshal, I’ll call the marshal!” (Miller 48). They automatically believed Abigail and exempted her from all punishment. She had them believed that the Devil made her dance in the woods and laugh in church. She convinced the town that the Devil was telling her who was guilty and used this to her advantage. Throughout the play, Abigail is brought into court to testify who is guilty and falsely accuse more innocent people. Those accused have no power in court because the court officials believe everything Abigail is saying is factual. Abigail used their Puritan beliefs to her advantage to manipulate them.
A character or person who becomes too obsessed with power and is unable to deal with the situation when caught in their own lies, can contribute to the systemic problem. Elizabeth Holmes was caught committing fraud when it was proven her machines provided false results. “The ability to measure numerous things on a tiny amount of blood is not rare’...doing so using fingertip blood, rather than blood extracted from veins, is difficult…” (Grossman). Many scientists were impressed to hear of this revolutionary medical technology created by a nineteen year old college dropout. They believed she was the key to the future of science. Soon, her name and her technology was raved about and spread throughout the country like wildfire. When her platform began to crumple, TIME Magazine released an article stating, “you can do bad science in Silicon Valley, but Theranos should have attracted scrutiny long before it did” (Grossman). Elizabeth Holmes spent sixteen years building up a fake company, and now that she was caught lying, she is awaiting trial in 2020. Her reputation that began as a brilliant, young revolutionary, is now in tatters, and she is seen as a fraud.
Similarly to Eizabeth Holmes, Abigail Williams was also caught in her own lies and let the power get to her head. When she believed she had done everything right and could now live a full life with John Proctor, she met him in his jail cell to convince him to run away with her. When he denies her, he tells her that the next time they would see each other would be in hell. When Reverend Parris discovered that both Abigail and his thirty-one pounds was missing, he realized that she ran and told Danforth three days later. Parris reports, “My niece, sir, my niece-I believe she has vanished” (Miller 126). Now Danforth and everyone is slowly realizing that their number one victim/accuser has runaway, which causes a panic. As the story went on, she felt less powerful because no one wanted to associate with her in fear of being accused next. Unable to handle the pressure, heartbreak, and guilt she felt, Abigail ran away from her problems when they became too much and spiraled out of control. Abigail is now said to have been found as a prostitute in Boston many years later.
When a person begins to harm others while trying to achieve a higher status in society, they impact and contribute to a systemic problem. Both Abigail Williams and Elizabeth Holmes are guilty of manipulating society, becoming obsessed with their newly found power and are unable to deal with the situation, and take advantage of their situation for their own personal benefit. They both began as young girls with dreams of being treated with respect and ended with their secrets being exposed and lost all of the respect they had earned. When trying to have their voices be heard, they based their platform off of lies. Abigail and Elizabeth have created the problem instead of the solution.
- Carreyrou, John. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup. Picador, 2019.
- Grossman, Lev. “The Fall of Theranos and the Future of Science in Silicon Valley.” TIME Magazine, vol. 187, no. 18, May 2016, pp. 25–26. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=fth&AN=115147762&site=ehost-live
- Miller, Arthur. The Crucible: A Play In Four Acts. New York : Penguin Books, 1976. Print. “Theranos Founder Holmes, Former President Indicted for Fraud.” REUTERS. Health Reference Center, online.infobase.com/Auth/Index?aid=17729&itemid=WE48&reutersId=424119. Accessed 18 Oct. 2019.