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This is an interesting question. On the surface, one may believe that Arthur Miller is simply using John Proctor's character as a means to expose the hypocrisy within the Puritan culture in Salem Massachusetts in 1692.
Although Proctor's character does just that through the exposure of his affair with Abigail Williams, I believe Miller uses John in another way, that is to show the audience that although the Puritans professed to follow God's word, they were, like all humans, capable of human flaws. In doing so, Miller uses John Proctor as a character, who like many, allows his weaknesses to trap him in a spiritual journey of finding the goodness that once was within him. As a result, by Miller making Proctor "human," he wants the audience to sympathize with Proctor, perhaps even empathize. If Miller intended the audience to view Proctor otherwise, the events in the play would be quite different. He would have to show John as a self-gratifying man, such as Rev. Parris. Instead, Miller shows John as a respected pillar of the community who is a devoted family man. In addition, Miller has Elizabeth go through this spiritual journey with John, even forgiving him in the end as John forgives himself. Proctor "...clearly shows remorse for his act and is attempting to right his error; he is conciliatory with his wife, Elizabeth, and disdainful of Abigail's sexual advances." Throughout the entire play, the audience can relate to John's every action, from the affair, to the hesitancy of exposure, to the strength of not signing his name away to a lie. Therefore, it is true that Miller uses Proctor to expose hypocrisy amongst the Puritan community, but he also uses Proctor as a means for his audience to identify and sympathize with him.
Arthur Miller clearly wants the audience to empathize with John Proctor in The Crucible, and we know this based on the principles for which he stands. Proctor is infuriated with the hypocrisy of the church, a position we should all support. Proctor is a man of integrity, despite his one great failing, something we all surely understand. Proctor is determined to correct the great wrongs being done by the court, even at the risk of his own life. Proctor wavers, in the end, between the easy choice and the right choice--and surely we've all been there. Miller creates a character we both understand and like because he's a flawed man of integrity.
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