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How does John Proctor's character change from the beginning of the play to the end of...

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ashleyr7 | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 10, 2012 at 10:11 PM via web

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How does John Proctor's character change from the beginning of the play to the end of "The Crucible"? 

Think specifically about his interactions with Abigail Williams and Elizabeth Proctor. 

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litlady33 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

Posted October 10, 2012 at 11:55 PM (Answer #1)

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Proctor's character changes drastically from the beginning of the play to the end, and is perhaps the most important element of the play. He  goes from a hot-headed adulterer to someone who truly wants redemption and make things right by his wife whom he has wronged.

When the audience is first introduced to Proctor in Act I, he has a conversation with Abigail. This scene reveals to the audience that they had been together before and that Proctor has committed adultery with Abigail.

In the next Act, Proctor finds out that his wife has been accused of witchcraft, and Abigail is the one who has made the accusation. On some level, Proctor knows that it is his fault that the accusation was made. He decounces Abigail and vows to make it right. "My wife will never die for me..." he cries, "....that goodness will not die for me." Proctor knows now that he must do anything he can to save his wife. She is a good person, and he knows he must make things right.

As the play goes on, Proctor tries to convince the court that he is telling the truth; that the girls are lying and Elizabeth is innocent. He even goes as far as to admit that he has slept with Abigail because he believes this admission will make the court see that Abigail is a liar. Still, the court sides with the girls and refuses to see the truth.

Proctor is eventually convinced to make a confession of his own. By now, he has given up every shred of dignity he has. He confesses verbally, but when he is asked to sign a paper that will be hung for all of Salem to see, he recants, exclaiming

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!

Though Proctor has committed one of the worst kinds of sins by committing adultery against his wife, he is perhaps one of the most upstanding men of Salem. He is willing to shed his dignity in order to save his wife. He is one of the few who sees the truth of the events. Though he, in the end, dies for his pride, he at least dies with the truth.

 

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