In The Crucible, what is the relationship between Rebecca Nurse and John Proctor? 

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

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There is not an actual relationship between Rebecca Nurse and John Proctor. They hold a mutual respect for one another.  Proctor respects Rebecca because of her spiritual conviction.  In a setting where so many pretend to be "holy," something that repulses Proctor, he finds a sense of shelter in the way Rebecca carries herself.  When Proctor is first introduced in the drama, he is uncertain of how to act in the wake of what he knows to be falsehood.  While he is immersed in a type of emotional paralysis, it is clear that Rebecca represents a standard to which he would like to aspire.  In this regard, the relationship between them is one of ideal and striving towards that standard.

The relationship between them tightens as the narrative progresses.  It is clear that when Rebecca is thrown in jail for witchcraft and when Proctor is imprisoned, the town has officially plunged into chaos.  The relationship between both of them becomes stronger as they both represent the voice of dissent in a world of conformity.  When Proctor has his "relapse" and signs the false confession, he is emotionally struck by the way Rebecca views his transgression.  It is here that Proctor makes the final movement towards what Elizabeth would later term his "goodness."  This enhances the relationship between Rebecca and John.  Proctor sees himself as a mere shadow of the ideal that Rebecca represents: "Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang!"  When Proctor asserts that he is "not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang," it is clear that he views Rebecca as someone morally and ethically superior to him.  It is in this light that the relationship between them acquires something akin to the dynamic of superior and supplicant.  Proctor sees that the path of goodness, something darkened in Salem, can be lit by following the example of people like Rebecca.

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