John Proctor in the Play the Crucible
A tragedy is an event that leads to one’s affliction and downfall. That’s the case in the play The Crucible by Arthur Miller. The Crucible took place in Salem, MA in the 1960s. It’s about how a group of girls dancing in the forest led to a full-on witch trial investigation. This play is an allegory which means its a story told on two levels. The first time period is the Salem Witch Trials and the second is the time of McCarthyism. McCarthyism is the manner of making accusations of destruction or treachery without proper evidence. Abigail, a 17-year-old girl who lives with her uncle, Reverend Parris and her cousin, Betty. Abigail is one of the antagonists and was the main accuser in the play. They sought the trails as a way to get rid of their foes. The trails led to hysteria and many deaths. One of the protagonists is John Proctor. John is a man in his 30’s, he’s married to Elizabeth Proctor and he serves on a farm. He is one of the most respected people in Salem. John is a flawed character. According to Aristotle, an ancient Greek philosopher, for someone to be categorized as a tragic hero, they need to be noble, they also need to have a flaw, they need to have some sort of suffering led by self-awareness and lastly, they need to have a downfall. John Proctor’s pride led to his downfall in the play which demonstrates that he fits Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero.
First and foremost, John Proctor is a widely respected man in Salem. John is recognized as a nobleman. People see him as a gentleman of high authority. Everyone is trusting of him and look up to him. He’s a strong person, physically and emotionally. Miller says “He was the kind of man-powerful of body, even-tempered, and not led easily-who cannot refuse support to partisans without drawing their deepest resentment.”(19) This reveals how he has a mighty personality and is a kind-hearted man. No one could imagine him doing a devilish act or anything to harm anyone especially his family.
Alternatively, John is a human being with flaws. Proctors hamartia is committing lechery. Being a married, Christian man, and committing this sin and confessing to it puts a toll on you and your pride/reputation. He felt as if this was his true downfall but he was very wrong. Committing a crime like this is very faulty and can affect you and the people around you but you can move past that. But by doing what he did, it cost him so much and put him and his wife through so much pain. Proctor says “No more! I should have roared you down when first you told me your suspicion. But I wilted, and, like a Christian, I confessed. Confessed! Some dream I had must have mistaken you for God that day. But you’re not, you’re not, and let you remember it! Let you look sometimes for the goodness in me, and judge me not.”(52) This quote shows how John felt the obligation to confess to this crime is because he’s a good Christian man and it was the right thing to do. All he desires is his wife’s forgiveness and for her to stop acting so distant towards him. John Proctors true flaw was him performing adultery.
Lastly, for a character to be classified as a tragic hero, there has to be a series of events leading to their downfall. That’s when they ultimately hit rock bottom and cannot make a come back. John Proctor’s downfall was not his flaw in which he committed adultery. It was his pride that stood in the way of him being able to live another day. When John committed to witchcraft it was because he didn’t want to die but the court wanted a written confession from John so that they could show all the people of Salem. John threw everything away for his pride. He knew if he did this, it would worsen his name and reputation in the town so he put his life on the line. Proctor says “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!”(133) John let his pride stand in his way and by doing so, his fate was decided.
John Proctor perfectly matches the image of a tragic hero because he suppresses all the characteristics of a tragic hero such as hamartia, suffering, nobility, and goes through a life-changing downfall. John Proctor’s main downfall was his excessive pride which eventually commenced his doom. Throughout he tried to hold on to his true Puritan values. Proctor’s life turned corrupt when Abigail accused his beloved ones who ended up being imprisoned or executed. John Proctor a person of high nobility and his pride purified his spirit after he underwent a tragic death. John ended up becoming a symbol of whiteness and honor for others.