The Crucible: John Proctor’s Search for Identity

In The Crucible by Arthur Miller, John Proctor is a good man. He is a puritan, a husband, and an all around valuable member of the community. All of this is represented by his name. The name of John Proctor could be considered his most prized possession. Proctor is very strong-willed and caring; however, he has committed adultery and had absolutely no intentions of joining in the witch trials. After his wife got involved, he feels that he can’t sit back and accept what is happening to the town.

John Proctor is a good and noble man and because he comes to believes that he can’t be hanged and die a victim when he has this sin hanging over him. Early on in the play, the reader comes to know that John Proctor has had an affair with Abigail Williams while she was working in his home. Abigail believed that if she got rid of Proctors wife, Elizabeth, then John Proctor would become her own. John Proctor’s affair with Abigail, for him it was just lust, while Abigail believed it to be true love. She told John Proctor that she loved him, and once she destroys Elizabeth, they would be free to love one another.

John is horrified at this, but can do nothing to convince Abigail that he is not in love with her. Because of Abigail’s twisted plot to secure John for herself, Elizabeth is arrested. John Proctor has to wrestle with the decision of what to do. He knows that he has sinned; yet he does not want to hurt his beloved wife. This is partly why he is willing to die. He knows he has already sinned. One of the most significant scene in the play was where John Proctor is able to talk with his wife, Elizabeth, for the last time. He decides that he will confess to the crime of witchcraft, thereby avoiding being hung.

He says to Elizabeth: “My honesty is broke, Elizabeth; I am no good man. Nothing’s spoiled by giving them this lie that were not rotten long before” (Miller 126). However, to accept what he said, the judge also requires him to sign a written confession which states that he confessed to the crime of witchcraft. Danforth would post it on the church door, to use Proctor as an example to get others to confess. That upset Proctor greatly because people would look down on him with disdain, and it would blacken his name forever. He cannot allow Danforth to make it officially documented.

As Danforth asks why, he is answered with a cry: “Because it is my name. Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name” (133). What was most important to him was to make a stand against the insanity of the town, for himself and for God, and using that as a last resort to make people aware of what was happening. This last stand for righteousness is an example of proctor’s great character and rationale.

John Proctor feels strongly about having a good name and taking it to the grave. He weighs both sides of his internal conflict and realizes that he must not make another mistake. Therefore, he sentences himself to death, not for his own sake, but rather for the sake of the others. As John Proctor dies, Elizabeth weeps, saying: “He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him” (134). Everybody throughout their lives is faced with inner conflicts. One must make a decision based on what they think is right and true.

The characters in The Crucible were faced with the most important decision of their lives. Whether right or wrong they went with what they thought was the right decision. John Proctor learns a lot about himself as a result of this experience. He learns the strength of his will as well as the power of his name. He knows that it is important above all to preserve his name and the integrity of his family. He learns what is right and what must be done. John Proctor has tested his wits and his strength and his will. Because of this, he becomes wiser and stronger than he has ever been.