Essay, Research Paper: Crucible And John Proctor

Literature: Arthur Miller

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John Proctor is a character from the Crucible, a play by Arthur Miller,
Throughout the play he changes from being a troubled, self-exiled, sinner to
becoming a person of high moral standards. The characters in this play are
simple, common people that live in the town of Salem in the year 1692. There is
a rumor of witchcraft floating about in the town that has led to accusations
about many of the townsfolk. The accused are charged and convicted of a crime
that is impossible to prove (witchcraft). The reasons the villains select the
people they do for condemnation are both simple and clear because all of the
accusers have ulterior motives, such as revenge, greed, and covering up their
own behavior. The three major points I will be talking about in my essay about
are as follows: 1 His entrance into the play where he is talking alone to
Abigail and trying to convince himself that he is not an adulterer and that they
did not have an affair. 2 when John is reciting the Ten Commandments. 3 where
John tells Elizabeth that he are going to confess. In the beginning of the play
John Proctor is introduced as a farmer in his mid thirties, that is not a
partisan of the town, and shows a very strong sense of self-preservation. The
first real conversation he has with another character is with Abigail Williams,
where Abigail is trying to make John tell her that loves her, and that he will
come again for her. John tells Abby that their affair is over with and Abby
begins to plead for John’s love and he says “Abby I may think softly of you
from time to time. But I’ll cut off my hand before I’ll ever reach for you
again. Wipe it out of mind. We never touched, Abby.” John knows that he really
did have an affair with Abby, but the fact that he denied it shows how in the
beginning of the story, he was a man only concerned with only his own self
preservation. Despite his adulterous behavior John Procter is a man that often
serves as the only voice of reason during the play. In act two, in the scene
where Reverend Hale asked John to recite the Ten Commandments, and John recited
all except for adultery. This scene shows that John isn’t just pretending he
didn’t commit a sin, but that in his mind the sin of adultery doesn’t exist
by itself, it had to be triggered by Elizabeth telling John that he forgot,
adultery as one of the commandments. It is from this point on that John Proctor
seems more willing to accept the consequences of his behavior. “I will fall
like an ocean on that court! Fear nothing Elizabeth.” Now John has a purpose
for direct involvement in the trials, it is the fact that Elizabeth has now been
accused of witchcraft. Since John knows she is innocent his statement above
shows his will to make sure his wife’s image or life isn’t destroyed by the
false accusations of Abigail. “A man will not cast away his good name. You
surely know that.” This quote shows how in the middle of the story John fells
that his name is the only true thing a man has. This quote comes from the
courthouse scene where John tells the judge that the girls danced naked in the
woods. After Abigail’s dramatic reaction, John tells the court that he had an
affair with Abby, and that she is a whore not to be trusted. At this point John
asks that the court see it is only Abigail’s vengeance that Elizabeth is
guilty of. In the final act John Proctor decides to confess to the crime. “I
have been thinking I would confess to them, Elizabeth. What say you? If I give
them that? It is at this point that John realizes that his name is no longer as
important as he once thought. “…let them that never lied keep their souls.
It is pretense for me, a vanity that will not blind God nor Keep my children out
of the wind…” But the good name of honest people like Rebecca Nurse still
has a profound importance, and John feels that importance. Now John has a
burning desire to live and is ready to confess, but just as he signs the
confession he snatches it up and rips it in half, because he doesn’t want his
name to be scorned in the village. It appears as though John Proctor has come
full circle and now refuses to hand the confession over to Danforth. “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!”
He realizes that the only thing in this world that he can hang on to is his
name, his honor, and the truth. John Proctor’s story is the heart of the play.
He represents both the cowardice and courage that Miller sees in everyone in the
play, and in the world, caught in dangers beyond their control. His initial
reaction is to protect himself only. With time he believes that he needs to
protect others, not only himself. But in the end he comes to realize that all he
can do and must do is to protect the truth, even at the cost of his own life. By
doing so he finally saves his own ‘name’, his truth, and his life, in a
different way. This is what Miller is trying to tell us, that there are some
things more important than life itself.
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