The Crucible, a play by Arthur Miller, centers around the struggles of defying authority, specifically religious laws that enforce harsh penalties for dissent. John Proctor is the main character in the play and stands out in Salem as one of the few rational individuals who can see through Abigail’s false witchcraft accusations. Despite his imperfections – notably his affair with Abigail – Proctor remains brave and resolute. His truthfulness, uprightness, and directness are apparent throughout the narrative, as well as his profound affection for his spouse.
John’s affair with young Abigail had unforeseen consequences, as it sparked jealousy in her towards his wife, Elizabeth Proctor. Nevertheless, John Proctor showed admirable qualities by opposing hypocrisy, treating his wife lovingly and respectfully, and ultimately sacrificing his own life to save others. In the Puritan community of Salem, Massachusetts, the increasing hypocrisy was becoming apparent to those who were aware.
Reverend Parris, who claims to be a “man of God,” is characterized as dishonest in the play. Despite his profession, he refuses to let his niece Abigail tell the truth about their forest dancing escapade, fearing that it would tarnish his reputation and jeopardize his income. If one delves into Parris’ biography, they would discover that he is a former merchant who later found solace in religion. However, his previous mercantile endeavors highlight his greed for money, especially since his business failed. The town of Salem also harbors other forms of hypocrisy among its inhabitants.
Innocent families are being killed and hurt by the witch hunt, as greedy land owners falsely accuse their neighbors and neighbors’ families in order to take over their land. For example, Mr. Putman accuses his former neighbor of witchcraft so that he can claim the land after his neighbor is condemned to death. However, John Proctor manages to avoid being a hypocrite by not participating in the witch hunt or giving in to his desire for more land. Proctor’s wife Elizabeth suffers greatly from the witch hunt and also from Proctor’s sinful act of adultery. Despite these painful truths, Proctor is able to win back Elizabeth’s trust and respect through his love and compassion.
Upon discovering Proctor’s secret meeting with Abigail, where they discussed the nature of the witch trials as mere “sport,” Elizabeth insisted that her husband inform Danforth about Abigail’s revelations. Despite being visibly upset by Proctor’s attempt to distance himself from their kiss, Elizabeth quickly forgave him when the trial began. As Proctor put his own reputation at stake to bring an end to the dreaded trials, Elizabeth’s sole concern was protecting her beloved husband, prompting her to lie on his behalf. By redeeming himself, John Proctor compelled Elizabeth to defend his integrity and virtue.
Proctor’s admirable character is demonstrated by his willingness to confront his mistakes and by the fact that he has proven to be a saint. Elizabeth Proctor’s last words before her husband’s death were, “He [Proctor] has his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him” (Act Four, Lines 13-14). In the final act, Proctor faces the decision of being hanged like the other accused witches or signing a confession to save his life. When he learns that his name will be made public, Proctor becomes enraged and exclaims, “Because it is my Name!”
Proctor passionately pleads with Danforth not to reveal his confession publicly, emphasizing his fear of losing trust. He insists that the weight of guilt would haunt him indefinitely if his name became tarnished. Furthermore, Proctor acknowledges that his ultimate goal to obliterate the town’s hypocrisy and put an end to the witch trials would be rendered meaningless if he were to succumb to hypocrisy himself by confessing to witchcraft.
By denying hypocrites, redeeming his relationship with his wife, and sacrificing himself to save others, Proctor has demonstrated admirable qualities. Despite the immoral actions of Abigail, his teenage mistress, Proctor managed to overcome his fears and end the Salem Witch trials. If Proctor’s legacy is revered and emulated, future historical events are likely to have better outcomes compared to those driven by the narrow-mindedness of the citizens of Salem, Massachusetts.