In Arthur Miller's The Crucible, how does John Proctor's character demonstrate hypocrisy in the Puritan culture?
Arthur Miller undertook prodigious research into the events that formed the basis of his 1953 allegory about the anti-communist hysteria that was sweeping the nation at the time he wrote The Crucible. Little was known about the events of 1692 in Salem, but what information that did exist was studied by Miller with an eye towards the parallels between the witch trials and the Red Scare that would soon engulf him. Many playwrights provide stage directions and character descriptions intended to assist future directors and actors to understand the author's motivations and visions. In the case of The Crucible, however, Miller went substantially further. He provides not just "thumbnail" sketches of his main characters, but considerable details regarding the characters' real-life histories and motivations, and it is within these descriptions that one can best find how John Proctor demonstrates hypocrisy within the Puritan culture in which he lived. The dialogue in the play, especially the early exchanges between Proctor and Abigail, leave absolutely no doubt regarding the sexual relationship that bound the two and that would precipitate the chain of events leading to the tragic executions by hanging of 20 innocent people and the ruination of hundreds more. The best example, though, of Proctor's hypocrisy, as suggested, lies in the descriptive material Miller included in the text of his play that precedes John Proctor's initial appearance on stage. That material spells out the playwright's views on Proctor's character, noting that Proctor was a respected member of his community -- a community founded upon puritan ideals -- yet who harbored within himself the seeds of interminable hypocrisy. The following is from Miller's description:
"He is a sinner, a sinner not only against the moral fashion of the time, but against his own vision of decent conduct. These people had no ritual for the washing away of sins. It is another trait we inherited from them. and it has helped to discipline us as well as to breed hypocrisy among us. Proctor, respected and even feared in Salem, has come to regard himself as a kind of fraud."
With these introductory notes regarding John Proctor, the dialogue between Abigail and him begins, replete with blatant references to their sexual history. John Proctor demonstrates hypocrisy by posing as a morally-righteous, upstanding member of society while simultaneously breaking one of the Ten Commandments by engaging in an extramarital affair with the young woman who would prove the undoing of many individuals.