Identify Proctor's meaning in the following quote: "I should have roared you down when first you told me your suspicion. But I wilted, and, like a Christian, I confessed. Confessed! Some dream I had must have mistaken you for God that day (55)."
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The quote comes at a particularly intense exchange between husband and wife. Proctor and Elizabeth are at a challenged point in their relationship. Proctor's affair with Abigail has caused a deep wound to Elizabeth. Embarrassed by his own behavior and seeking to find some type of redress for it, Proctor recognizes his own choices have helped to cause such a situation. They both stay together, but there is heavy damage caused. Proctor fears he is being judged by Elizabeth, who is struggling with the demons of doubt in the midst of seeking to forgive. The emotional dynamic between them is taut and raw.
In the exchange where the quote is featured, this emotional dynamic takes center stage. Elizabeth is convinced that Proctor must tell the authorities about what Abigail told him regarding the fraudulent nature of the witchcraft accusations. Proctor says he needs to reflect and think about it. She interprets this as him still harboring feelings for Abigail and being dishonest to her. He interprets her insistence as trying to impose her moral values on him and a sense that she does not trust him to do the right thing.
Eventually, the miscommunication boils over into his outburst. Proctor's quote is powerful in expressing the discontent that often presents itself in marriage when couples are fighting. The idea that "I should have roared you down when first you told me your suspicion," refers to how he perceives himself as having been "too nice" and understanding to her. In his self- description of having "wilted," one senses how he feels he has been too understanding, "walking on eggshells" in his fear of her being unhappy. In ruing his confession, he tells her that he should have been more forceful with her, perhaps even concealing the relationship he had with Abigail. He ends with a fairly classic statement about how he mistook her for a divine force. Certainly, Proctor does not mean the inflamed rhetoric he says to Elizabeth. It is Miller's genius to be able to show how husbands and wives speak to one another when they are angry and intensely with one another while they love one another. The quote reflects this anger and a sense of hurt underneath it.
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