The Misjudgment of John Proctor in The Crucible by Arthur Miller

October 23, 2020 by Essay Writer

In The Crucible by Arthur Miller, many characters had actions that were misjudged as well as beliefs that that were questioned. A prime example of misjudgment of one’s character would be that of John Proctor.

John Proctor is an example of one who was misinterpreted by many other characters in his book, and this misinterpretation ultimately led to his demise. John Proctor had been a man of God who had taken a stumble off of his (intended) heavenly path. His integrity faltered through few of his actions, and his honesty was questioned. Though this was a serious crime of the era that this play takes place during, many of the townspeople who claimed to be devoted to God throughout the play had engaged in actions similar in severity to John’s act of adultery. Although he had committed the action, he confessed and he did feel guilt for doing so. In Act III, after he confessed, he is asked where and responds with, “PROCTOR, his voice about to break, and his shame great: In the proper place—where my beasts are bedded. On the last night of my joy, some eight months past. She used to serve me in my house, sir. (He has to clamp his jaw to keep from weeping.) A man may think God sleeps, but God sees everything, I know it now. I beg you, sir, I beg you—see her what she is. My wife, my dear good wife, took this girl soon after, sir, and put her out on the highroad. And being what she is, a lump of vanity, sir— (He is being overcome.) Excellency, forgive me, forgive me. (Angrily against himself, he turns away from the Governor for a moment. Then, as though to cry out is his only means of speech left:) She thinks to dance with me on my wife’s grave! And well she might, for I thought of her softly. God help me, I lusted, and there is a promise in such sweat. But it is a whore’s vengeance, and you must see it now. (374-384) He tried to bring Abigail to justice to save the lives of many who had been accused, at the cost of his perceived honor.

Abigail Williams, the girl John Proctor had an affair with, had been deceitful throughout the play which cost the lives of many. The young girls who followed her actions condemned the lives of many to avoid themselves being convicted of their crimes. John was a man who could see this and understand what the young girls were doing, which was a great advantage over the overwhelming amount of those who did not. He had intentions to bring the wrongdoers of the situation (the young girls who associated with Abigail Williams) to justice, and wipe clean the names of those wrongly accused. However, he was continuously misinterpreted and misjudged, leading many to falsely believe he had no intentions of doing good for the village.

Proctor was a man who had devoted himself to God, yet had the priorities of his family’s well being set above being a devout churchgoer. Many had questioned him for this and his absence to church many times, and believed he did not care for God as strongly as he portrayed himself to. This was not the case, however. John Proctor knew there were tasks to be completed to keep his family alive and well, and knew he could pray to God and show his love for God without sacrificing that well being. Part of his reasoning to not attend church was because he believed Parris wanted nothing but a pretty church and did not speak of God as a preacher should. In Act II, an exchange between Proctor and Hale explains this more clearly, “{Hale: Mr. Proctor, your house is not a church; your theology must tell you that.” {Proctor: It does, sir, it does; and it tells me that a minister may pray to God without he have golden candlesticks upon the altar.} [Hale: What golden candlesticks?} {Proctor: Since we built the church there were pewter candlesticks upon the altar; Francis Nurse made them, y’know, and a sweeter hand never touched the metal. But Parris came, and for twenty week he preach nothin’ but golden candlesticks until he had them. I labor the earth from dawn of day to blink of night, and I tell you true, when I look to heaven and see my money glaring at his elbows—it hurt my prayer, sir, it hurt my prayer. I think, sometimes, the man dreams cathedrals, not clapboard meetin’ houses.}

At the end of the play during Act IV, he does decide to falsely confess to the actions he was accused of to avoid being hanged. However, his remaining shreds of integrity refused to allow him to continue with the confession by signing his name on a paper that would essentially set his confession in stone. He chose the end of his life to remain true to himself and wife over a continued life of a lie, as he could not feel as though he was a righteous man. He had hoped that God would judge him accordingly, and decided that was of highest importance.

The matter of good or bad is highly based on opinion, and Proctor fell victim to the circumstances of the majority of opinions in his village being against his favor. They chose to not see the good in his choice to work for his family, and instead see the bad in his absence at church. The village did not see the good intentions in his efforts to shed light on the reality of witchcraft in court, but chose to believe he had a compact with Lucifer. This does not make John Proctor a bad man, nor a man of the Devil. It makes him a man who had been unfortunate enough to have more people believe he was than those who believed he was not.

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