John Proctor’s Evolutions
Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is a morality play that examines religious and political fervor, mob mentality, and hypocrisy. While some characters realize that the proceedings are anything but just, others never think about them critically. John Proctor evolves throughout the play, from sinful to pure. His many dilemmas drive his evolution, which makes the point that someone who is having their own personal battle can still be an example for someone else. Arthur Miller illustrates John Proctor as a tragic hero, showing that true leaders might sacrifice themselves in order to right their wrongs and help others.
John Proctor is a tragic hero because by noticing and overcoming his own flaws he is able to help others. In Act I of The Crucible, Arthur Miller describes John Proctor as “a sinner not only against his moral fashion of the time but against his own vision of decent conduct.” This description allows the audience to mentally illustrate how John Proctor is not only a sinner in the eyes of the religious community, but also is a sinner to himself due to his hypocrisy. Throughout the play, we see John struggling with accepting that he has committed adultery, which not only hurts his pride but also his wife’s. In Act two during a heated discussion with Elizabeth, his wife, Proctor exclaims, “I cannot speak but I am doubted, every moment judged for lies, as though I come into a court when I come into this house!” (Miller, p. 52) Proctor is being very malicious, because he believes that even though he hurt her she should be able to move on and stop questioning him. He feels that his wife does not have the power to judge him, because she is not God. This alone show John’s hypocritical ways, because he also judges others. The audience can later understands that this incident is not one that can be overlooked, because the woman he slept with, Abigail, would soon hold power over the both of them that could cause life or death. A bit later in Act I Reverend Hale mentions Proctor’s lack of presence in the church “…I note that you are rarely in church on Sabbath day (Miller Pg. 64)” During the first half of the play Miller blatantly lays out all of John Proctor’s flaws and sins, for the audience to see. Throughout the novel he is shown owning up to his hypocrisy, adultery, and pridefulness, realizing his wrong doings.
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In the last scene of the play, the audience is apparent to John Proctor’s 180 transformation. Proctor decides that he must let go of his own pride and stop judging others in order to redeem himself and help save Elizabeth’s life. Although in the end he is hung, his death allowed for the people of the town of Salem to question whether the people who died in the witch hunts, were justified. His death also allowed for him to be viewed in a more positive light by those who witnessed his testimony. In Act IV before Proctor gives his testimony he expresses, “I speak my own sins; I can not judge another. Crying out, with hatred: I have no tongue for it. (Miller Act IV pg 131) Proctor is finally putting down his guard and admitting that he has no right to judge anyone but himself, and can only speak on what he has done wrong. During Act IV Proctor also earns forgiveness from his wife Elizabeth,”He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!”(Miller Act IV pg 145) She believes that because he has come clean not only to the public, but to himself he is once again “good.”
Today it is very easy to judge someone, and expect them to fail due to their past actions. But we must remember that people can evolve. Society must do a better job at not being hypocritical and slowing down to assess a situation than automatically going off of what has happened in the past. John Proctor is a great example of a man who was able to overcome many failures, he can teach us all that it is important to know yourself and your wrongs before you decide to speak on someone else’s behalf.