Almost every story or situation has some type of hero. Whether this be a literal superhero saving a town or a “tragic hero,” mostly every story has one. A tragic hero in a novel is a character that is neither completely good or bad, and who has a fatal flaw that causes his/her downfall throughout the story. This character is well respected and prosperous, but eventually is responsible for their downfall and soon comes to recognize it. Arthur Miller’s The Crucible follows the Salem Witch Trials of Salem, Massachusetts.
The story is set around the town of Salem undergoing a time of accusations on different people for “witchery.” Though there are many characters that play vital roles in the story, one truly stands out. The character known as John Proctor plays a major role in not only the start of the Salem Witch Trials, but also in ending up to be the tragic hero of the play.
In Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, while being the protagonist yet having flaws such as lust and pride that cause himself and the town of Salem to fall in the end, John Proctor can be labeled as the tragic hero of the play.
One of the most significant characteristics of a tragic hero is being neither a good nor completely bad character. Additionally, the character must also be a respected and well renowned character. From the beginning of the play, it is clear that John Proctor is an admired character that is highly looked upon by the town of Salem. However, John Proctor does have a major flaw that contributes to his downfall and truly makes his character a tragic hero. Proctor’s big problem is his lust with Abigail Williams.
These two lines display the previous relationship that Proctor and Abigail shared, and it also reveals Proctor’s major flaw: lust. Not only is committing lechery a horrific sin in the Puritans’ belief, but it is also the cause of hysteria in Salem, and what makes Proctor a tragic hero by causing his ruination in the end. In addition to Proctor’s confrontation with Abigail, his fatal flaw also begins the outburst of hysteria of the witchery in Salem, and which ultimately destroys him as well. When Proctor and Abigail are meeting again in Act I of the play, after Proctor rejects the recall of the affair with Abigail, the following conversation takes place:
This shows how the affair between Proctor and Abigail infuriates Abigail and sends her into a state of jealousy, which overall becomes the cause of the start of the Salem Witch Trials when Abigail accuses Elizabeth of witchery. This is when Proctor’s second major flaw is displayed, which is his pride. John Proctor is too concerned about his dignity and reputation in Salem, that he refuses to share his secret affair with Abigail. Therefore, along with his forbidden lust and prideful self, John Proctor had set himself up to fall yet also become the tragic hero of the novel.
Although a fatal flaw is what truly makes a character a tragic hero, another important factor is how the character comes to recognize their wrongdoing and how they accept the consequences. In the beginning of the play, Proctor was a character that was very prideful and cared much about how others viewed him. This ultimately would destroy his reputation and cause the outbreak in Salem. However, in the end, John Proctor turns around to put his honesty and integrity over his pride, which is what truly makes a tragic hero in the end. In the final act of the play, when Proctor is battling against himself whether to confess to witchery or not, he says, “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” (Miller 143). This quote shows how in the end, Proctor has turned himself around and put his integrity over his reputation. Rather than feeling guilty and living with his sin, Proctor has decided to set himself free of lies and die with pride. This is ultimately what makes a charatcer a tragic hero.
Disregarding his ending scenes, one may argue that John Proctor is in fact not the tragic hero of the play. One might argue that he simply had no good deed and that his entire role was merely a man that committed all types of sin. After all, John Proctor did commit lechery and he used his selfish and prideful ways to cause ruin on himself and the town of Salem. However, Proctor did redeem himself in the end. Although a tragic character is one who has a fatal flaw that ruins them, another key component is that they also recognize their error and accept it, which is exactly what John Proctor did. Though Proctor can be seen as only a horrible man that can not be forgiven for his countless sins, he ultimately became the tragic hero after acknowleding what he had done wrong and choosing the people over himself.
In the end, John Proctor can very easily receive the title of tragic hero in The Crucible. John Proctor was a respected character that did, however, have a weakness that escalated his defeat and that he was responsible for on his own part. Nevertheless, he managed to overcome his toxic ways when he accepted his consequences and realized what he truly had to do to forgive himself and to better himself for the people of Salem. With Proctor’s development throughout the story, it is clear to decipher what a tragic hero is, even in 1600s Salem. A tragic hero always faces their difficulty and turns around to become a better version of themself, and of course, be the “hero” in the end.
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Essay About Salem’s Tragic Hero. (2021, Jun 10). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/essay-about-salems-tragic-hero/