Cindy Lee The Crucible; John Proctor One of humanity’s greatest challenges is to stand up and defend what he or she knows is right in the face of opposition. In the play, The Crucible by Arthur Miller there is one character that is true to himself and stands out above all the rest. Throughout the play, John Proctor shows some ideal qualities that are not found in other characters. The play takes place in Salem, Massachusetts where religion and corruption are rampant, and soon two girls fall ill unexplainably and it sparks ideas of evil and witchery in the town.
The citizen of the town starts pointing fingers at those who appear to have dealings with the devil, which inspires grave misfortune for many. Amongst all the lying and deceit in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, John Proctor was able to stay true to himself because he stood up for what he believed in and became a fighter against the injustice in the Salem witch-hunt. One concept that flows through the play is the idea of lying and deceit. When Hale questions Abigail about witchcraft, she blames Tituba for everything.
Abigail says that Tituba made her drink blood, cursed her dreams, and tempted her to sin. Hale questions Tituba and says that she will be off the hook if she admits that she has been working with the devil and if she tells him the names of people who had contact with the devil. Tituba, who is charge with witchcraft, denied it at first. However, Tituba became frightened when Parris told her to “confess yourself or I will take you out and whip you to your death” [pg 44]. As a black female slave, she has no power.
She cannot defend herself against Abigail’s accusations, even though they both know that Abigail is lying. Though Tituba is lying in order to save her life, she accuses Sarah Good and Goody Osburn of having contact with the devil. Since Tituba lied, now Sarah Good and Goody Osburn will have to be hang. In addition, when Proctor told the court about his affair with Abigail, the court summons Elizabeth Proctor. Proctor defended his wife by saying that she is incapable of lying. When she enters, no one was to speak.
Elizabeth Proctor is in a tough situation. She can either tell the truth and accuse her husband of adultery or lie to save his husband but at the same time go against her morals. In the end, she chose to lie. Though she did it to save the reputation of her husband, little did she know of the consequences that followed her act. Proctor is taken away because “she spoke nothing of lechery” [pg 114]. Proctor needed his wife to be honest and she failed to meet his request. Proctor is put to jail because of a lie that could have been prevented.
Moreover, when Abigail, Mercy, and Betty were accused of witchcraft, Abigail denied such accusations. Mary Warren inability to faint in front of the court gives Abigail and the other girls the perfect opportunity to pretend that Mary Warren is sending out her spirit against them. The court is likely to discard Mary Warren’s testimony in view of the evidence Abigail provides. John Proctor stood up for what he believed in so he stayed true to himself. Proctor mentioned to his wife that he had spent time alone with Abigail. Elizabeth becomes upset because Proctor did not tell her earlier.
Proctor gets angry because he believes Elizabeth is accusing him of dishonesty and is suspicious that he has resumed his affair with Abigail. Proctor has tried to please Elizabeth to gain her forgiveness but nothing seems to work. Proctor is tired of Elizabeth suspicions and goes against her by saying “Women. I’ll not have your suspicion any more” [pg 54]. Proctor regrets his affair with Abigail. His own guilt along with Elizabeth’s accusation, wearies him. He knows he has done wrong and by standing up for himself, he stays true to himself as well as his wife.
Furthermore, Proctor did not go to church as often as he should have, which is greatly frown upon. He did not like Parris ways of preaching and as a result, he refused to go to church. His third child was not baptized because Proctor did not see the light in God in Parris preaching. Proctor is brutally honest when he says “I have trouble enough without I come five mile hear him preach only hellfire and bloody damnation…There are many others who stay away from church these days because you hardly mention god anymore”[pg 29].
Only someone who speaks what he believes would say such harsh criticism towards the church, which is a dominant place in his or her society. Speaking badly about the church and reverend is consider a sin, Proctor clearly stated this charge because he strongly believed it to be the truth. Also, Proctor hesitated to sign the confession admitting to his alleged crimes. Under pressure, he signs his name but soon after, he snatches the sheet from Danforth. Proctor refuses to allow him to nail the paper with his name on the church door.
Proctor fixates on his name and how it will be destroyed if he signed the confession letter. Proctor attempt to preserve his good name earlier kept him from testifying against Abigail but now he finally realize what a good reputation means. He defends his name by not signing the confession letter. John Proctor became a fighter against the injustice of the Salem witch trials so he stayed true to himself. Proctor discovers that Mary Warren knows a lot about the trials because of her role in court. “We will slide together in out pit; you will tell the court what you know”[pg 80].
Proctor sees that Mary knows that the witchcraft accusations are false. He decides that it is his responsibility as well as Mary Warren’s to tell the court that the hysteria in Salam is base on lies and false accusations. He took it upon himself, to save his wife as well as protecting other innocent people from being accused and sentence to death. In addition, Proctor can no longer take Abigail and her lies. Only when Proctor accuses Abigail of being a whore does she lose authority with Danforth.
Proctor admits his affair to the court and Abigail’s plot to kill Elizabeth; he gives the court another opportunity to end the trials. Proctor had spent seven months concealing his affair with Abigail, but now that the truth is reveal, no one believes it. In the end, Proctor would rather die than have his family name thrown about in dishonor. Proctor could not let the other innocent victims hang while he lied to live. There is “some shred of goodness in John Proctor” [pg 144]. The Proctor’s honesty and goodness that he lost when he was with Abigail is recovered when he died for what he believed in.
John Proctor was initially portrayed as a sinful man who had an affair. However, by the end of the play he transformed himself from a deceitful man and husband, to one whom was true to himself as well as his beliefs. John Proctor was not the perfect man, but his beliefs and values are in the right place. On the other hand, he let his pride get the better of him, which ultimately lead him to his demise. He was a good man that had a single flaw, his pride, which gives him the title of a tragic hero. Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. USA Penguin Books, 1952