What are some of the main conflicts in The Crucible?

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e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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This intense play has a number of conflicts, both internal and external. John Proctor serves as the central figure in all of the play's important conflicts as he struggles to attain an honorable honesty even while admitting to immoral acts. 

Narrowing our focus down to the most significant conflicts of Miller's play, we can identify the following three conflicts:

  • Proctor's troubled history and difficult relationships with Elizabeth and Abigail form a single domestic conflict...
  • Proctor's attempt to persuade the court that the accusations of witchcraft are false is an external conflict central to the play's themes and action. 
  • Proctor's internal struggle to determine the right course of action at the end of the play is a representative conflict, as he considers whether to falsely confess and live, or to be honest and die. 

These three conflicts are expressive of the major themes of the play. Social pressure, integrity, and the personal relationships that fuel nearly all dramas are each present in these conflicts concerning John Proctor. 

Proctor stands in the center of the plays turmoil, literally and figuratively. He is engaged in a personal struggle to be honest with himself and his wife about something shameful in his immediate past. This relates directly to his public challenge, which is to convince the court that it is acting dishonestly, or at least acting on dishonest information. 

Proctor can also be seen to embody the play's resolution as he recognizes that his honor and his integrity are tied to his ability to be honest, despite the costs of this honesty. 

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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