From The Crucible, describe the "everlasting funeral" that John sees in Elizabeth's behavior.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of Miller's greatest strengths is how he is able to use powerful language in articulating the most personal of moments and the most subjective of experiences.  In the concept of "the everlasting funeral," Proctor and Elizabeth are in the midst of a heated and intense argument.  It stems from John's hesitancy to go to the authorities and declare what he knows about Abigail's deceptive concoctions.  He does not want to come forward for fear he will not be believed.  Elizabeth sees it as something different.  In light of the affair that he had with her, there is an undercurrent of mistrust in that she reads his hesitancy as harboring feelings for Abigail still.  The exchange in which the "everlasting funeral" image emerges represents the fundamental opposition both husband and wife are experiencing:

Spare me! You forget nothin' and forgive nothin'. Learn charity, woman. I have gone tiptoe in this house all seven month since she is gone. I have not moved from there to there without I think to please you, and still an everlasting funeral marches round your heart. I cannot speak but I am doubted, every moment judged for lies, as though I come into a court when I come into this house!

Proctor's words are powerful.  The "everlasting funeral" concept can be seen in a couple of lights.  The first would be that Proctor is openly admitting that nothing he do will be able to fully repair the bond that is broken between husband and wife.  His detailing of all that he has done to try to make right that which he made wrong represents this.  In such a light, the "everlasting funeral" is an element that represents the "death" of their marriage, one in which what is done can never repair the pain caused.  This can be supplemented with another approach that Proctor's claim of the "everlasting funeral" is a sarcastic "dig" at Elizabeth.  Proctor might be saying that he has reached his maximum capacity with being judged by Elizabeth who is acting like a martyr as being done wrong with carrying as if she lives in an "everlasting funeral."  John's viewing of the "everlasting funeral" is one in which there is pain.  Yet, the manner in which the concept can be interpreted can be read in different ways, reflecting how the intensely emotional disagreements between lovers or husbands and wives contain layers of complexity and intricacy.  This is certainly an apt descriptor for Elizabeth and John in the course of the drama.