Meet John. (Hi, John!) He cheats on his wife, he can't remember the entire ten commandments even though he goes to church pretty much every week, he's more stubborn than a mule, and he's angry pretty much 100% of the time. He's also... our hero.
John Proctor, The Crucible's protagonist, has some major issues. But we can see why. Back in the day, he had everything your average Puritan man could want: a farm to ceaselessly toil upon, three sons to discipline, and a wife to make a home with. Proctor was a stand-up guy who spoke his mind. Around town, his name was synonymous with honor and integrity. He took pleasure in exposing hypocrisy and was respected for it. Most importantly, John Proctor respected himself.
Huh. What could possibly go wrong?
Enter: Abigail, the play's antagonist. This saucy young housekeeper traipsed in to John's life (while Mrs. Proctor was super ill, btw) and, before he knew it, his good life was bad, bad, bad. John made the mistake of committing adultery with her. To make things worse, it was also lechery (Proctor was in his thirties and Abigail was just seventeen—yuck). All it took was one shameful encounter to destroy John's most prized possession: his self-respect.
When we first meet John Proctor halfway through Act I, we discover a man who has become the thing he hates most in the world: a hypocrite. He is caged by guilt. The emotional weight of the play rests on Proctor's quest to regain his lost self-image, his lost goodness. In fact, it is his journey from guilt to redemption that forms the central spine of The Crucible. John Proctor is a classic Arthur Miller hero: a dude who struggles with the incompatibility of his actions with his self-image. (Willy Loman of Death of a Salesman, Eddie Carbone of A View From the Bridge, and Joe Keller of All My Sons all have similar issues.)
Why the Fall?
Adultery? Lechery? John, what got into you?
Well, apparently John's wife Elizabeth was a little frigid (which she even admits), and when tempted by the fiery, young Abigail, John just couldn't resist. Elizabeth was sick while Abigail was working for the Proctors, so she probably wasn't giving her husband much, erm, attention.
But probably the cause of John's transgression is much deeper than base physical reasons.
It's also quite possible that John Proctor was attracted to Abigail's subversive personality. Miller seems to hint at this in the first scene where we see them together. Abigail tells John that all the hullabaloo about witches isn't true. She and the other girls were just in the woods having a dance party with Tituba. Miller writes:
PROCTOR, his smile widening: Ah, you're wicked yet aren't y'! […] You'll be clapped in the stocks before you're twenty. (I.178)
The key clue here is the stage direction. It seems to indicate that Proctor is amused and charmed by Abigail's naughty antics. This would be in keeping with his personality. We see him challenging authority, from Parris to Danforth, throughout the play.
Man of Action
John Proctor is a passive protagonist; for the first two acts, he does little to affect the main action of the play. (Read more on this in our "Character Roles" section.) By the time Act III rolls around, however, he's all fired up. Spurred by his wife's arrest, he marches off to stop the spiraling insanity of the witch trials—and hopefully regain his own integrity in the process.
Proctor goes to court armed with three main weapons. There's Abigail's admission to him that there was no witchcraft. Also, he has Mary Warren's testimony that she and the other girls have been faking everything. Last (but not least) he's prepared to admit that he and Abigail had an affair. This would stain her now saintly reputation and discredit her in the eyes of the court. Between the wily machinations of Abigail and the bullheadedness of the court, all of these tactics fail. John only ends up publicly staining his good name and getting himself condemned for witchcraft.
Even though John doesn't achieve his goals of freeing Elizabeth and stopping the overall madness, he does take two significant steps toward regaining self-respect in Act III. One: he doesn't stop fighting the false accusations even after he finds out that Elizabeth is pregnant and therefore safe for a while. He feels a greater duty to his community and proceeds anyway. Two: by openly admitting his adulterous lechery, he is no longer a hypocrite. He has publicly embraced his sin.
In Act IV, Proctor conquers the final hurdle on his path to redemption. This is no easy task; he stumbles a bit along the way. In order to save his life, he is tempted into admitting that he is indeed in league with the Devil. He justifies this lie to himself by saying that he's a bad person anyway, so what's the difference? At least this way, he'll be alive:
PROCTOR, with great force of will, but not quite looking at her: I have been thinking I would confess to them, Elizabeth. [...] What say you? If I give them that?
ELIZABETH: I cannot judge you, John. (Pause.)
PROCTOR, simply—a pure question: What would you have me do?
ELIZABETH: As you will, I would have it. (Slight pause.) I want you living, John. That's sure.
PROCTOR: It is a pretense, Elizabeth [...] I cannot mount the gibbet like a saint. It is a fraud. I am not that man. She is silent. My honesty is broke, Elizabeth; I am no good man. Nothing's spoiled by giving them this lie that were not rotten long before. [...] Spite only keeps me silent. It is hard to give a lie to dogs. (IV.188-200)
Yup: John's having a pity party and you're not invited.
However, when he's asked to actually sign his name, John refuses. The act of putting his name to paper is just too much. By signing his name he would have signed away his soul. Though he would have saved his life, goodness would've been forever out of his reach. With this final valiant act, John Proctor comes to a kind of peace with himself. He says,
"I do think I see some shred of goodness in John Proctor. Not enough to weave a banner with, but white enough to keep it from such dogs." (IV.298)
By the end of the play, our Johnny has finally achieved his goal: he's bucked the system, stood up to the Man, and saved his tarnished good name.John Proctor Timeline
Free Essays on The Crucible: John Proctor
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The Crucible - John Proctor, a man with pride
John Proctor plays the leading role in The Crucible by Arthur Miller. He was persistent, honest, and full of integrity. He was simply, a man with pride. A wise woman once said, "Do what you feel in your heart to be right--for you'll be criticized anyway. You'll be damned if you do, and damned if you don't." (Eleanor Roosevelt). Proctor was the protagonist of the dramatic piece of literature.
When the play sets in to action, John has had a past affair with his servant Abigail Williams. His wife, Elizabeth Proctor is very forgiving of his sin, but John has his mind set that he will not confess to anyone else, in fear of ruining his good name, and reputation. The affair between John and Abigail caused the start of chaotic witchery and accusation. After the affair, Abigail became horribly jealous of Elizabeth Proctor. Proctor realizes there is only one way to stop all the witch hysteria in Salem, and that would be to confess his sin of adultery. Although he knows he should, he continues to be determined not to confess. Also in the beginning Reverend Paris is new to town, and John insist continually that he is only speaking of hell, and hardly ever of God, as Proctor goes on to say to Parris, "Can you speak one minute without we land in Hell again? I am sick of Hell!" (Miller 30). In the drama, Mary Warren places a needle in a poppet she gave to Elizabeth; John firmly demands that Mary Warren tell the courts that she really put the needle in the poppet that day. Proctor says to her, "You're coming to the court with me, Mary. You will tell it in the court." (Miller 80). Furthermore, at the end of the play Proctor is persistent by saying that no matter what anyone says to convince him differently, he would rather die an honest man and save his name. John Proctor took pride in his thoughts, feelings, values, and his name. It took persistency to make his intent clear to others.
For many reasons, John Proctor is an honest man. By no means is Proctor afraid to tell you what is on his mind.
How to Cite this Page
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John Proctor Mary Warren Crucible Elizabeth Proctor Needle Eleanor Roosevelt Parris Minute Abigail Williams
In the beginning John truthfully tells Parris why he has not be at church recently, "I have trouble enough without I come five mile to hear him preach only hellfire and bloody damnation. Take it to heart, Mr. Parris. There are many others who stay away from church these days because you hardly ever mention God any more." (Miller 28). John realizes that he must confess his sin of adultery to the courts, only to stop the frenzy in Salem. After he confesses, he encourages his wife to do the same, "Elizabeth, tell the truth! Elizabeth, I have confessed it!" (Miller113). He confesses his sin, and speaks those words, only because he is looking out for the good of the community, and others around him. He hates that his name is tarnished, but feels that God will forgive him for it. Later, his honest shows again when he tells Abigail his true feelings by saying that he would cut off his arm before reaching for her again. * Proctor accepted the truth for what it was, not because he had to, but because speaking words of truth are actions of an honest and prideful man.
Proctor is given the chance to confess himself of witchery. The courts want him to sign a legal statement of his actions, to post on the church doors. The court feels that if the community sees that an honest man confessed, they will feel that it's all right to confess also. Of course John refuses to sign. He knows that a false admission would not only dishonor him, but also strain his public reputation and his soul. He has high levels of integrity, by refusing to give up his personal integrity, he feels he will be rewarded eternal life in heaven. John would rather die knowing that he did not give in, and that he stood up for what he knew to be true. John also declined to give the names of innocent community members. He is taking a hit for the team. Proctor realizes that if he gives the names of innocent citizens they will be hanged. So instead he feels he has no choice, but to do the right thing, and die for the good cause. Proctor respects and stands up for his fellow neighbors. "I- have no knowledge in that line. But it's hard to think so pious a woman be secretly a Devil's bitch after seventy year of such good prayer." (Miller 64). Proctor's decision is not an easy one to make as a famous man once said, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.). John is saving others lives, saving his name, keeping his pride, and his integrity.
John Proctor died for his name, and many other reasons. He was a man of pride. He possessed the qualities of persistency, honesty, and integrity. With those attributes, I am sure he was rewarded his prize in heaven