How does John Proctor demonstrate honour, integrity, and a headstrong/determined attitude?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

John Proctor is often headstrong and determined. This is seen in his interactions with his household servant, Mary Warren. In act 1, scene 2, Mary Warren left the Proctor's home for the day because she was asked to be an "official of the court." The court was seeking to find and punish witches in their community. Elizabeth tells John that Mary left her work to serve the court. He responds in frustration,

"Why'd you let her? You heard me forbid her go to Salem any more!"

A few minutes into the scene, Mary Warren enters the house. John Proctor, furious that Mary disobeyed him, shouts,

"How dare you go to Salem when I forbid it! Do you mock me? I'll whip you if you dare leave this house again!"

In this scene John is headstrong and unwilling to hear Mary or Elizabeth's explanations or excuses.

Just before the curtain falls at the end of act 1, John and Mary have another conversation. This occurs after Elizabeth has been accused of witchcraft and put in jail. John tells Mary,

"You're coming to that court with me, Mary. You will tell it in the court."

As usual, John Proctor is assertive and demanding. He does not suggest what Mary should do or offer her some wisdom; he tells her she will go to court, as though she has no option in the matter. In this case, John makes this demand of Mary because of his passionate desire for justice for his wife. John Proctor knows that his wife is entirely innocent; he demands, insistently, that Mary do the right thing. Mary had confessed to John that she made the doll that got Elizabeth in trouble. After he hears this, he insists:

"You will tell the court how that poppet come here and who stuck the needle in."

Mary continues to come up with excuses as to why she can't tell the truth. Even after Mary admits that Abigail is a danger to his reputation and that Abigail will tell the court about her (Abigail's) affair with John, he continues to demand that Mary tell the truth:

"Good. Then her saintliness is done with. . . . You will tell the court what you know."

As the scene closes, Mary continues to fight against John's commands, shouting, "I cannot, I cannot," a motif that occurs several times in the play.

Throughout act 1, scene 2 John Proctor shows his great perseverance and determination. His determination to act with integrity and honor is especially seen in his conversations with Mary Warren, his servant. Though John Proctor commits a great wrong by having an affair with Abigail, he continues to try to act with honesty and integrity. He encourages (and sometimes compels) those around him to live with integrity, as well. John Proctor's determination leads him to willingly sacrifice his own life to potentially end the witchcraft accusations and hysteria.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

John Proctor demonstrates honor, integrity, and determination after his wife is arrested and falsely accused of engaging in witchcraft. After Elizabeth is arrested, John Proctor vows to expose Abigail Williams as a lying, malevolent individual, who relishes her new authority while harming innocent citizens. In act 3, John Proctor challenges Salem's authority figures and reveals his integrity by disclosing his secret regarding his affair with Abigail in hopes that it will undermine her authority. After ruining his reputation and being arrested for challenging the court, John Proctor once again demonstrates his integrity by refusing to accuse other innocent citizens of witchcraft. After initially signing his confession, Proctor reveals his honor and determination to destroy Salem's corrupt court by ripping up his confession. Proctor then makes the ultimate sacrifice by becoming a martyr and accepting his fate as he willingly walks to the gallows. Overall, Proctor demonstrates his integrity and honor by admitting his infidelity, challenging the court officials, refusing to falsely accuse innocent citizens, and tearing up his confession in the hopes that his death will spark an uprising to remove the corrupt court.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

John Proctor represents the moral center of The Crucible. His decisions are representative of the two major conflicts of the play.

First, Proctor is challenged to decide whether or not to stand up to the townspeople as they persist in the fraudulent witch trials. Second, he is challenged to achieve moral integrity by honestly admitting to his own faults, flaws and shortcomings. 

Proctor understands that if he goes to the court to tell the truth about Abigail and her lies, he will be subject to the court's punishment and to death. To save his wife, Proctor faces this danger and makes the decision to risk his own life to save hers. This act is honorable and brave. In doing this, Proctor expresses a strength that allows him to stand up to the majority of his community. 

In the end, Proctor also achieves moral integrity by admitting that he is flawed. He had an affair. He is a flawed person, yet because he can admit to his flaws he remains (or becomes) a good person. This admission is in contrast to Danforth's refusal to hear evidence that would suggest the innocence of those he has sentenced to death.

Danforth is unwilling to admit his flaws and so becomes representative of a significant moral failure. Proctor, oppositely, demonstrates personal strength and moral resolve by admitting his flaws and forgiving himself for them. 

In Proctor's final recantation of his confession and his refusal to put his principles aside to save his life, we see the triumph of personal integrity in a world of moral uncertainty.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial