How did John Proctor's death help to illuminate the meaning of the work?

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

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Proctor's death helps to highlight how individuals have a moral and political obligation to speak out when authority structures are wrong.  Proctor's death helps to illuminate this.  By the end of the drama, it becoes clear that the ruling political body in Salem has erred.  The basis of the trials has been undermined with Abigail leaving town and citizens in other towns rebelling against the trials.  Salem, itself, has had enough of Parris.  The machinery that drove the trials is slowly eroding.  Proctor's death brings out how individuals must sacrifice and speak out against that which they know is wrong.  The fact that he confesses and then recants his confession helps to show how Proctor does not wish to sacrifice "his name."  

In a world in which so many are geared by external ends and means, Proctor is committed to "his name" and what Elizabeth would call "his goodness."  Miller's point in having Proctor die is that individuals who are committed to their belief systems must speak out against that which they know is wrong.  Protor's death illuminates this.  He does not remain silent or take the path of conformity for he knows that such a choice denies "his name," something that he finds morally and ethically unacceptable.


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