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In The Crucible many people say that John Proctor's tragic flaw is lust, but as lust is...

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laurierose | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 15, 2010 at 7:01 PM via web

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In The Crucible many people say that John Proctor's tragic flaw is lust, but as lust is a sin, to what extent can it be counted?

Since lust is one of the seven deadly sins, does you think it actually counts? Or is their another flaw that you think is more important?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 16, 2010 at 11:04 PM (Answer #1)

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I think that this is a fairly strong assertion being made. The basis of the assertion in terms of the "Seven Deadly Virtues" might prompt a type of hierarchy to be evident, making it more difficult to assess.  I would suggest that one of the elements that comes out of the play is the idea that the sin or tragic flaw itself does not hurt as much as its concealment.  The concealing of Proctor's sin is what causes him more challenge than the actual act.  When he decides to come clean and be transparent, the sin or tragic flaw almost seems to dissipate as he acquires a higher moral status because of his condition of being open and transparent with both his wife and his fellow citizens.  In this light, the sin is secondary to its concealment.

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mrs-campbell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 16, 2010 at 2:58 AM (Answer #2)

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There is no rule that states a tragic flaw can't also be a sin. In fact, they often correlate.  Pride is a sin, and it is the tragic flaw of many literary characters.  Lust definitely does play a role in Proctor's downfall; if not for his lust for Abby and their resulting affair, then he and Elizabeth might have been spared.

I mentioned pride above, and think that it also applies to John Proctor.  He has a lot of self-pride, and strong opinions about things.  This does not make him friends in the town.  He argues with their reverend, Parris, continuously, and also with the Putnam family.  John's pride won't allow him to give in to their points, and prompts him to point out the flaws in others.  His self-pride makes him loathe himself; he knows he has sinned and is unworthy, and can't find his way back.  To cover, he acts defensive, and almost signs a confession that is a lie, because he feels he truly is a liar, and not a good man.

So, one of Proctor's downfall is definitely his relationship with Abby; for flaws that are more evident in his words and actions throughout the course of the play, you can look to pride or other character traits.  I hope that helped; good luck!

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lizbv | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted April 16, 2010 at 3:18 AM (Answer #3)

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This is truly a multi-faceted question.  In a sense, yes lust can be both a sin AND a tragic flaw because in fact most tragic flaws are sins (pride, greed, etc.). The complicated part here is that in most tragedies, the flaw manifests itself during the play. In this case, John Proctor is actually recovering from his tragic flaw and his virtues are the ones that come to the forefront now.  Additionally, if there is any tragic flaw at all to identify it could be his pride as made evident in the final scene when he refuses to sign the false confession, screaming out "Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another!" (Act IV).  This shows his pride in his name and his refusal to blacken his name with a lie, a complete turn-around from the previous actions (affair) which blackened his name.  However, his pride is actually something admirable in this scene in that he would prefer to forsake his life and die with pride than live a lie and therefore live in shame.

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