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John Proctor has to make a life-and-death decision at the end of act four of The Crucible by Arthur Miller. He wavers, of course, because he wants to live. It is a natural inclination for any man, especially an innocent man, to do anything he can to save his life and be with his family. Yet in the end, Proctor chooses what he believes to be the honorable path and refuses to sign his name to a lie.
Hale: Man, you will hang! You cannot!
Proctor, his eyes fully of tears: I can. And there’s your first marvel, that I can. You have made your magic now, for now I do think I see some shred of goodness in John Proctor. Not enough to weave a banner with, but white enough to keep it from such dogs. Elizabeth, in a burst of terror, rushes to him and weeps against his hand. Give them no tear! Tears pleasure them! Show honor now, show a stony heart and sink them with it!
This decision certainly means he is going to be hung for the false crime of witchcraft. That is a certainty. His decision also means that he can die free and forgiven, despite his transgressions in life, and he will face God with a clean conscience. He has confessed all and is now free to die without shame and without dishonoring his family. He has left his children a legacy of honor rather than shame.
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