John Proctor character analysis
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The play The Crucible of 1953 by Arthur Miller has John Proctor as one of the central characters. The McCarthy era, when the American government purportedly retaliated against persons believed to be communists, served as the inspiration for Miller’s drama. John Proctor is the play’s main protagonist and Elizabeth Proctor’s husband. He is a local farmer who values his independence but is also temperamental. In this classic tragedy play, he is a tragic hero, and his problems seem to have begun after he had an affair with the niece of Reverend Samuel Parris, Abigail Williams. Although John Proctor had an affair, he is a religious man who valued his reputation and wrestled with a great internal conflict in the whole play.
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In Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, several characters go through significant conflict, whether it be due to visible or unspoken personal issues. Some people live in constant terror, constantly worrying about being wrongly accused of witchcraft. Others deal with more profound inward struggles like forgiving people who have wronged them. John Proctor, the main character, had a solid moral foundation and held himself to a high standard to benefit his reputation and family (Koorey, 2019). Proctor is a decent, honest, straightforward, and plain man, but he has a terrible defect that only he knows about. His desire for Abigail Williams resulted in their affair, shown to the audience even before the play starts. This made Abigail resent his wife Elizabeth and started the witch panic.
Despite being a religious man, Proctor carries himself high and believes that a man must be able to stand up for himself. He upheld a high level of morality not because his faith required it but because he believes it to be the proper thing to do (Miller, 2015). He is tormented by the fact that he cheated on his wife and has been unable to be at rest since then. He felt guilty after his encounter with Abigail. He felt “…a sinner not only against the moral fashion of the time but against his vision of decent conduct.” (Miller, 2015). He has previously demonstrated that he is not orthodox in his faith and did not follow the rules and regulations if he disagreed with them (Chavkin, 2019). If his moral standards had not been as high, whether it was the commandment of his religion or not, it is unlikely that he would have felt the remorse and self-hatred he did.
The Great Name
The significance John Proctor places on his great name is another characteristic that makes him unique. Proctor firmly believes that a person’s name is all that remains of them when they pass away and that whatever they do with it while they are alive will impact future generations. This is what motivates him to act in the play’s concluding scene (Casper, 2019). He first did not feel guilty about telling the truth to the court regarding his charge of witchcraft because he believed that the harm to his reputation had already been done and committing another sin would not be as significant. His attitude changed when he realized that his confession would include disgracing the names of persons who were already deceased.
Conclusively, John Proctor is a tormented character in the play who feels that his affair with Abigail has permanently destroyed his reputation with God, his wife, and himself. It should be no surprise that his relationship with Elizabeth stays tense for the remainder of the play. His good name, along with the respect and integrity accompanying it, is his greatest asset. Proctor essentially brands himself an adulterer after confessing to having an affair with Abigail, which causes him to lose his outstanding reputation.
- Casper, V. (2019) The crucible. The Arthur Miller Journal, 14(1), 58-62. https://doi.org/10.5325/arthmillj.14.1.0058
- Chavkin, A. (2019). The crucible. The Arthur Miller Journal, 14(1), 69-74. https://doi.org/10.5325/arthmillj.14.1.0069
- Koorey, S. (2019). Critical insights: The Crucible by Arthur Miller. The Arthur Miller Journal, 14(2), 133-135. https://doi.org/10.5325/arthmillj.14.2.0133
- Miller, A. (2015). The crucible. Bloomsbury Publishing.