Crucible -Proctor’s Moral Stru Essay, Research Paper
The primary dramatic focus in the play The Crucible is the moral struggle of its protagonist, John Proctor. Certain characteristics of John Proctor s character and also the environment of the Puritanical Salem alleviated this problem for him. The main issues running through out the play are a series of dilemmas that John Proctor faces. The first and foremost of these is his guilt over his adulterous affair with Abigail Williams, the second his hesitation to testify against Abigail to bring out the truth and the third, his final decision to make the ultimate sacrifice.
John Proctor is portrayed throughout the play to be a man who has high moral values that he must abide by. He can spot hypocrisy in others easily and judges himself no less harshly. Elizabeth Proctor says to him in the second act:
The magistrate sits in your heart that judges you
This statement is true for John Proctor, he judges himself harshly for his sins and is disgusted with himself. John Proctor is a foil to most characters in the play. They are conformists and submissive as a result of the restrictive lifestyle they had to lead.
The first struggle that John Proctor faces in The Crucible is his guilt over committing the sin of adultery. This moral problem continues throughout the play, and it is the primary moral predicament that Proctor faces in the play. He has broken his own moral code as was as the moral law in the Puritanical Salem in his affair with Abigail.
Moreover, he struggles with his moral standing on this issue because he is partly responsible for Abigail s vendetta against his wife. This guilt is best demonstrated when Proctor says at the end of the second act:
My wife will not die for me!
Just after his wife was arrested, Hale said some words to John that struck a chord within him:
Man, we must look to cause proportionate. Abomination!
Some secret blasphemy that stinks to heaven?
By saying this, Hale extends Proctor s guilt in that his hidden sin has caused the whole community to fall to the vengeance of God.
The second act develops the need for Proctor to take action in the court and expose the girls as frauds. The focus moves onto Proctor, who has the power to take action, but is prevented from doing so by his guilt over committing adultery and fear of exposure as a sinner.
He overcomes these conflicts by deciding to testify against Abigail and confessing to the crime of lechery. It is at this moment that he realises that he must participate in the community and that his individual needs might have to be sacrificed for the good of all. Another motivation for Proctor could have been that he wanted to replace his wife s alleged guilt with his own and that he wanted to be redeemed of his sin.
He realised however, that it was to late and the witch craze could not be stopped. In a powerful speech at the end of the third act Proctor says:
For them that quail to bring men out of ignorance, as I have
quailed, and as you quail God damns our kind especially,
and we will burn, we will burn together
This speech shows that Proctor is blaming himself for this tragedy. Proctor s guilt still continues about his affair with Abigail and he is also now guilty for hesitating to act earlier.
The final act of the play focuses on Proctor s dilemma to whether to live or accept death. In his conversation with Elizabeth, Proctor gives his reasons for confessing:
I cannot mount the gibbet like a saint. It is a fraud. My honesty is broke, Elizabeth; I am no good man. Nothing s spoilt by giving them this lie that was rotten long before.
Proctor decides that giving a false confession is not too high a price to pay for saving his own life. Proctor also feels himself unworthy to hang with the others as he feels that they are truly innocent. However, as John confesses, he cannot allow Danforth to make it officially documented. As Danforth asks him why John answers with a cry:
” because it is my name. Because I cannot have another in my life . . . How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name
He realises, however, that this will negate the reputation he has built over a lifetime and cause him to betray his friends and community, he chooses death over dishonour and betrayal and tears up his signed confession.
As he rips up his confession his guilt, his doubt and his rage are gone and what remains is, as John Proctor says:
some shred of goodness in John Proctor. Not enough to weave a banner with, but white enough to keep it from such dogs
At the denouement of the play, Arthur Miller has resolved all of Proctor s moral struggles. Proctor forgave himself for his sins and also died out of responsibility to others. His choice to tear up his confession and allow himself to be sacrificed to prevent the corruption of society forms the conclusion and the moment of catharsis in The Crucible.
Miller uses John Proctor to demonstrate that we all have human frailties, but standing up for your beliefs and maintaining truth and your integrity are among the most important things. He also uses Proctor to demonstrate what an unjust system can do to an individual with good intents. The play is a parallel to the anti-Communist McCarthy era. Through John Proctor we see the ludicrous nature of mass hysteria that exists when society has gone awry.
It is apparent that Miller focuses his play around the moral struggles of the protagonist, John Proctor. Throughout the play, Proctor has many struggles that he must deal with and look deep into his soul to find the resolution. He undergoes a major survey of his character and it is only this way that he can gain redemption for his sins. By abiding by his own moral code, John Proctor makes many hard decisions that will affect the outcome of the play. Proctor s struggles reflect upon the central message that Miller is communicating through the play.