How does John Proctor represent integrity in The Crucible?

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e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This play presents a number of conflicts, external and internal. The crisis faced by John Proctor in the final two acts of the play embody both of the external and the internal conflicts of the story as he is forced to confess to a moral transgression then accused of another. 

Each of these conflicts, for Proctor, is directly related to integrity. 

When Proctor confesses to his affair with Abigail while in court, he does so because his sense of integrity demands it. His wife has been sentenced to die. Proctor has a choice to make - either maintain his secrecy regarding his affair with Abigail or confess, sacrifice his reputation, and in this way try to save Elizabeth. 

This is an issue of integrity. Proctor realizes that if he maintains his secrecy, he will be acting in cowardice, betraying his wife (after already wronging her with Abigail), and failing to do the self-less thing. As a man who values honesty, Proctor cannot lie by omission. He cannot keep his secret. He must confess. 

His confession to the affair leaves his integrity intact, even while it damages his repuation as a moral man. 

Later, Proctor faces a final test. He will be hanged if he continues to deny that he has performed witchcraft. Though he is tempted to lie to save his life and provide a false confession, Proctor realizes again that this is an issue of integrity. 

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.

Choosing honesty, a supreme value for Proctor, is his method of maintainting his integrity. 

rainyafternoon | Student

At the end of the play, he sacrifices his good name, everything that he stands for, to tell the truth. He would rather be hung than succumb to the lies of the court. 

It is only after the emotional carthasis he goes through that we see this coming to light. In Act 1 & 2, he doesn't represent integrity because he is concerned of his good name. The pride he has prevents him from directly confessing. Only after he witnesses the willpower of other characters- Rebecca Nurse, for example- who refuse bend to the court- does he have this integrity. 

Procter is a symbol of integrity. Integrity does take a while to cultivate. It is only when you establish what is important to you, or when you witness other instances of powerful integrity (Rebecca Nurse) - that's when for most people integrity burns through. And it does for Proctor. He was a little hesitant at first, wanting to cover up his good name, but he came through at the end. He saw "some shred of goodness in Procter now. Not enough to weave a banner with, but white enough to keep it from such dogs". 

Thats the idea of integrity, a universal theme, that Proctor embodies. 


Hope it helps; this was just some ideas I had. 

Read the study guide:
The Crucible

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