Essay, Research Paper: Crucible As A Hero

Literature: The Crucible

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A tragedy should bring fear and pity to the reader. A man in this tragedy not
should be exceptionally righteous, but his faults should come about because of a
certain irreversible error on his part. This man should find a bad or fatal
ending to add to the tragedy of the story, for this man in the tragic hero. The
protagonist John Proctor portrays a tragic hero in The Crucible; his hamartia of
adultery causes great internal struggles, he displays hubris by challenging
authority, and he encounters catastrophe through recognition and reversal. John
Proctor’s decision to betray his wife causes internal struggles and ultimately
leads to his catastrophe at the end of the drama. Hamartia is the primary error
of the tragic hero which provokes part of his misfortune. Proctor’s serious
mistake of adultery delivers problems with Abigail Williams and indirectly
causes his jailing. Abigail is a grown young woman, and yet she is an orphan who
mistakes John Proctor’s sex for true love. When Proctor tells Abigail that the
relationship can no longer continue, the girl becomes angry and sorrowful
(1098). In order to prove Abigail’s sinfulness and to discredit her in front
of the court, Proctor proclaims that he had an affair with this evil child. The
outraged court officials summon Elizabeth Proctor to find the truth. When asked
about her husband, Elizabeth’s soul is twisted, for reporting the truth could
destroy her husband’s reputation, but lying means breaking her solemn oath to
God. Because she is selfless, Elizabeth chooses to lie and save her husband, but
perhaps condemn herself to hell for such a sin. This scene indicates dramatic
irony, for Proctor knows that which Elizabeth is not aware of, and this is that
he has already “confessed it” (1148). The court jails Proctor; Elizabeth
Proctor’s selfless act backfires. Proctor’s hamartia of adultery indirectly
causes his jailing and gives him the reputation of a liar. The court views his
real truth as a lie and believes he defies authority. Although John Proctor does
not truly defy authority in this scene of the play, for he tells the truth and
his wife lies, he challenges control in many other instances. John Proctor
exposes hubris through his hate of Reverend Parris. Hubris is placing ones self
equal to authority or to God, and it is a necessary trait of the tragic hero.
John Proctor proclaims that he does not go to Church, an act the court and
townspeople view as a revolt on the supremacy of God, because the Reverend
Parris is corrupt. Parris is greedy and cares more about the sake of his
reputation that the health of his own daughter. Proctor resents the Church
because Parris runs it. In the eyes of officials, this casual negligence of God
turns Proctor into an unchristian, sinful rebel. Though Proctor’s reasons for
disregarding the Church are quite reasonable, people do not accept them in this
time of devils and evil. The tragic hero not only places himself as an equal of
God, but as an equal of court authority as well. John Proctor insults the court
by tearing up a search warrant, and officials later accuse him of trying to
overthrow the court because of his controversial evidence against Abigail and
the girls. When Herrick and Cheever appear at the Proctor home to capture and
take away Elizabeth Proctor for witchcraft, Proctor vigorously protests, for he
knows that Abigail Williams created a scheme in order to get rid of his wife.
John Proctor does not tolerate this; because he is a tragic hero, he does not
allow another soul to suffer for his mistake. As a challenge to court authority,
he tears up the search warrant (1127). This act escalates the war between
Proctor and the court. Proctor will go to the extreme, even if it means
punishment by death, in order to save his wife. Proctor delivers to the court
his statement that Abigail and the other girls are frauds. He has no desire to
bring forth this information because he knows it will simply anger Abigail and
most likely ruin him because of Abigail’s power. His statement is necessary,
though, to the salvation of his wife. When Danforth hears John Proctor’s
shocking revelation that the girls are frauds, he is outraged and so dismisses
this evidence as an attempt to overthrow the court (1134). Danforth feels he
must choose Abigail’s argument over that of Proctor’s, for otherwise the
townspeople might view Danforth as a murderer because of his orders to execute
those people accused of witchcraft by Abigail and the girls. In this case,
Danforth bestows upon John Proctor the image of a man of hubris in order to
protect his own reputation. Proctor knows that Danforth will never accept his
evidence of the girls as frauds, and this in part causes his resolution. Near
the end of The Crucible, Proctor believes that he has lost the battle of
witchcraft. He feels there is no hope that the court will free him from
execution, and he panics. A person can be strong for his entire life, but when
the moment of death comes, he will crack. If given a choice between life, but by
lying, or death, but through honor, the decision is made more difficult through
the hysteria experienced. John Proctor chooses life, though he knows this means
a life of regret and dishonesty. Proctor does, however, realize his mistake in
choosing this sort of life over an honorable death before it is too late.
Proctor’s decision to ultimately choose a death of honor over a life of shame
is the major reversal of the play. Reversal is the change of fortune that
results from recognition, or learned knowledge that results in a change of
action in a character, of any tragic hero. John Proctor’s recognition is his
discovery that he contains goodness. “For now I do think I see some shred of
goodness in John Proctor” (1166). When Proctor believes that he is a man of no
decency, he chooses to live by confessing witchcraft, since this lie fits his
personality. Through Elizabeth’s support, this tragic hero sees the goodness
he holds and acts on it by reversal and by choosing an honorable death. He
realizes that this action is one that would bring about Elizabeth’s
forgiveness, and her mercy is what he searches for throughout the play. John
Proctor’s sudden change through recognition and reversal is a major crisis in
the play, and from this stems his catastrophe. Proctor’s catastrophe is that
he will hang. The catastrophe is the closing part of a drama that results from
the crisis. Because John Proctor decides to deny witchcraft through his
recognition and reversal, he finds catastrophe by his sentence to hang. The
catastrophe also ties up the drama and gives a greater emphasis that John
Proctor is a tragic hero, for he accepts his death with silence and shows a
capacity for suffering. Another quality of the tragic man is belief in his own
freedom, show by John Proctor in the catastrophe. Proctor’s freedom is death;
death is his escape from the Puritan world which persecutes and punishes him
with cries of witchcraft. Overall, the catastrophe reveals the tragedy and
integrity of John Proctor, making this character a tragic hero. John Proctor
shows that he is a tragic hero through his struggles within the play. He
struggles with his sin of adultery, for it causes breaks in his bonds between
his wife and Abigail. He grapples with authority, for Proctor is not one who
listens to authority simply because it is the excepted thing to do. He also
faces death because he chooses to be a noble man and denies all charges of
witchcraft. Though John Proctor is not a perfect man, his beliefs and values are
in the right place; he listens to his heart. When his head tells him to listen
to the court because it is the law, and when Hale tells him to choose to live as
an accused witch, Proctor does not listen because he knows that these acts are
not in his best interest. He follows his soul, a lesson the whole world should
learn to follow.

Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. Literature, Timeless Voices, Timeless Themes.
Ed. Ellen Bowler, et al. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 1999.
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