About Main Character of the Crucible
“I say– I say– God is dead!” (Miller 198). As John Proctor creates even more hysteria and madness in Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, not only does this seal Proctor’s fate, but it also mimics the mood and aura of the Red Scare during the 1950s. During what is known as the “Red Scare”, Americans are being accused of associating or being part of the communist party, much like in The Crucible where most innocent people are accused of witchcraft. One of Miller’s characters, John Proctor, is wrongfully accused of witchcraft into which he admits soon after that these accusations are true. This shocking plot twist changes the tone from belligerent to awestruck because throughout the story John Proctor’s name means a great deal to him and when he confesses to witchcraft, he not only ruins his name but also seals his fate. However, John Proctor is not just a made up character in Miller’s play, he is based off of a real person who lived during the same time period named John Proctor. Miller’s character and the real person do have some similarities, but they have a great deal of differences as well. Arthur Miller makes his character from the real John Proctor with little information about his background to show his skill within the syntax, characterization, and most importantly his style of writing.
Firstly, Arthur Miller sets the tone through provocative word choice. More specifically, the word choice that the character John Proctor is given. For example, in Act Three, John Proctor’s tone changes from stubborn and unbothered to panicked and anxious. As stated in the play,”It is a whore!” (193). As John Proctor denounces Abigail in a full courtroom, Miller’s word choice for John is expressed in harsh detail. You can see John Proctor’s development throughout as he goes from being a respectable character with secrets in his back pocket to an honest person with high moral standards in the end. In the beginning of The Crucible, Miller makes John out to be not only a man only concerned with his vanity, but he also makes him out to be the only voice of reason in the first acts. As Proctor says in the first act of The Crucible, “Did you consult with the wardens before you called this minister to look for devils?” (Miller 151). Miller is making John the voice of reason by making him ask the townspeople if they even considered this phenomenon to not be witchcraft before calling a minister to look for witches or devils. He is the only one that seems to take the situation how it is and without putting malevolence behind what is going on with the girls. However, in the end, John Proctor is made to realize that he must protect the truth because it is all he can do, even if it means sacrificing himself to save not only the truth but also his name. This portrays the idea that some things are more important to others than even life itself.
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John Proctor, as one of the most dynamic characters in the play, is respected, outspoken, unflappable and hardworking man, but at the same time he is vulnerable, and has a mediocre sense in judgement. All of these traits that Arthur Miller has bestowed upon his character makes readers think, is the real life John Proctor the same way? The answer to that is yes, in some ways physically and emotionally, both John Proctors are the same. In John Proctor, the real John Proctor was is a hard working, successful tavern owner, who is very outspoken during these times in Salem, Massachusetts (John Proctor: First). Those personality traits that the real John Proctor possesses are also some of the traits given to the character John Proctor by Arthur Miller. However, as there may be few similarities, there are a great multitude of differences between them.
Lastly, the differences between both John Proctors is plentiful because Miller could not make his story as meaningful using the information given on the real John Proctor. One of the most important differences between the two is that Miller’s character is said to be in his mid thirties during the Salem Witch Trials, while in reality, John Proctor is sixty years old during that time. Another difference is their occupations, the real John Proctor is a tavern owner, while Arthur Miller makes it known in act one that, “Proctor was a farmer in his mid thirties”(148), This proves that not only did Miller make his character to be twice as old as the real person, he also changes his occupation to make him a simple man in threatening times. The last difference between the two is their children. In the play Proctor is said to have all sons when in real life, Proctor actually has two sons and a teenage daughter during these times. This is a trivial difference but it certainly makes someone who is analyzing and researching this story think, why did Arthur Miller make such a slight change to the story? This is probably because he wants to give more attention to the affair in the story that could not happen in real life because Abigail William is only twelve during the time, rather than possibly getting his adolescent daughter involved in the trials and making the story focus on that instead of what he really wants. These details may be considered minor changes to the story but they contribute so much more that what they appear to be. These components make the story more realistic to readers and puts more power in Miller’s writing because all of the situations seem more accurate with such details.
In conclusion, John Proctor as a character and as a real person is one of the most important and progressive characters in The Crucible and in the Salem Witch Trials. There are key differences and similarities between them but these differences would not be there without Arthur Miller’s style of writing, his syntax and characterization of John Proctor.