The Ethical Journey of John Proctor in The Crucible As He Tries Fixing His Mistakes
During the era of the Salem Witch Trials America turned into a bloodbath fueled by fear and greed. In Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible the puritan town of Salem and it’s people go through dramatic changes, especially the main character of the play John Proctor. Multiple innocent people are accused of witchcraft and John tries to prove the court wrong, but ends up being imprisoned and sentenced to death. Through out the play, John Proctor becomes more ethical and will do anything to fix his mistakes, even if it means to die.
In Act I and II of The Crucible, John Proctor acts selfishly. “Abby, I may think of you softly from time to time but I will cut off my hand before I’ll ever reach for you again. Wipe it out of mind. We never touched, Abby.” (1109) John had an affair, but just now realizes that it makes his wife resent him. Without considering Abigail’s emotions towards him he tells her to forget their experiences together. This shows that John never had feelings for Abigail and took advantage of her naive emotions. John also told his wife “I will take your suspicion no more, women.” (1122) His wife, Elizabeth, knows that he had an affair so she is suspicious. John doesn’t understand why she’s mad after he apologized, so he gets upset that his wife is still mad at him. This shows that John doesn’t understand his wife’s feelings. Therefore, in Act I and II John only acts for himself.
In the next few Acts of The Crucible, John Proctor is starting to use his knowledge to speak up against the trials. When Hale comes to his house for questioning after Abigail told the court that Elizabeth was practicing witchcraft, he says “ I—I have no witness and cannot prove it, except my word be taken. But I know the children’s sickness had naught to do with witchcraft.”(1130) During this time, the court is sentencing multiple people to death for minor actions. John realizes that he has the opportunity to save lives if he tells the judges what he knows about Abigail. Another quote that shows how John changed in Act II is when he tells Hale “And why not, if they must hang for denyin’ it? There are them that will swear to anything before they’ll hang; have you never thought of that?”. He tells this to Hale after he tells John that he has questioned all of the accused and they confessed. John is speaking out to Hale about the corruption of the court, and eventually Hale agrees with John. The quotes used show that John has started to change into a better person.
John now realizes that the court is corrupt because of his actions. After he went to court to confess his affair with Abigail, the court saw him as a liar and he told the judges “You are pulling heaven down and raising up a whore!” (1152) The court continuously relies on Abigail to figure out who is a witch, but she lies to distract from the fact that she did witchcraft and slept with John. John knows that Abigail is lying and doesn’t want the court to rely on her anymore. John is desperate for the court to believe him, but he knows that if he signs his name on the document he’ll never have the opportunity to speak in court again. After he refused to sign his name on the document saying that he confessed to witchcraft, he shouted at the court judges “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!” (1164) This was one of the most emotional parts of the play because Proctor has admitted that he hasn’t done witchcraft. If someone who was convicted of witchcraft says that they’re innocent, they will be killed because the court assumes that they’re a liar. John feels that if he confessed to witchcraft he wouldn’t be worth the dirt on the feet of those that didn’t confess because they decided to die pure than live as a liar, unlike him. This shows that John has definitely changed throughout the play.
Throughout the play, John Proctor becomes more ethical and will do anything to fix his mistakes, even if it means to die. John proctor went from acting selfishly in Act I and II, speaking up in Act III and to transforming into someone that acts for the greater good in Act IV
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