Describe the significance of Mary Warren’s changing behavior towards John Proctor from Act I.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mary Warren's changing perspective towards Proctor comes from the very attitude and behavior that comes with the fluctuating nature of power.  In the first act, she is not one who enjoys power.  She is afraid that what she and the other girls have done and fearful of the punishment that will result.  It is in this vein that her behavior towards Proctor is deferential.  When he tells her to go back to his home and tend to his duties, she quickly scampers off.  Yet, in the second act, her power has increased.  She sits in judgment of others in Salem and has the power to determine punishment. When Proctor tells her to go to her chores and not go back into town, she discards him because she has power.  She is able to use this power to supposedly save Elizabeth.  By the end of Act II, it becomes clear to her that the power that she has dwarfs in comparison to the power of Abigail.  This causes fear in Mary by the end of Act II, which is why she is so conflicted.  Such conflict spills over into the third act, where the desire for power, in terms of remaining with the group, and the desire to stand up for what is right come into direct collision with one another.  Proctor becomes the target for Mary in order to maintain her sense of power.  Mary's changing behavior becomes the direct result of how power can change individuals.