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Is John Proctor doomed by his own sense of morality in The Crucible?

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bethan95 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 18, 2012 at 5:24 AM via web

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Is John Proctor doomed by his own sense of morality in The Crucible?

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e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 9, 2012 at 3:56 PM (Answer #1)

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We might argue that John Proctor is both doomed and saved by his own sense of morality in The Crucible. The question of how an individual's moral integrity is related to the moral integrity of a community is central to this play and is exemplified most clearly in the character of John Proctor.

Can he stand up to the community's lies and speak the truth? Can he tell this truth even as a man who has flaws and who has been morally compromised by his affair with Abigail? 

These questions are answered positively in the play but not without significant emotional turmoil on Proctor's part. Proctor's sense of morality leads him to seek forgiveness from his wife, which he does not receive readily. Also, his sense of morality leads him to challenge the prevailing belief in the veracity of the accusations being made at the which trials. 

In each case, Proctor's morality creates a situation of adversity which could have been avoided if his sense of morality did not necessitate specific and honest action. 

The final conflict of the play ends with Proctor's decision to either forgive himself for his adultery and accept his flaws alongside his virtues thereby regaining his moral integrity or to compromise his morals yet again by lying and confessing to witchcraft. Proctor chooses the path of integrity, which leads to his death and also to his moral salvation and the reclaiming of his honor.

Proctor's final recantation of his confession and his refusal to put his principles aside to save his life, we see the triumph of personal integrity in a world of moral uncertainty.

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