John Proctor is a different man by the end of The Crucible, as his character evolves from a self-loathing sinner to an upright, moral man.
At the beginning of the play, John is intent on hiding his affair from everyone—even at the expense of others’ safety. He guesses immediately that Abigail is playing a game, and he wants her to tell the truth so innocent people don’t get hurt. However, she is not interested in what is right or moral—she is only interested in him. While John recognizes this fact, he fails to recognize how far Abigail will go in her delusion that she can win him back.
John begins to realize the truth after so many people, including Elizabeth, are accused, and he tries to stop the hysteria. Abigail speaks of cleaning up the world and taking Elizabeth’s place; she is also adamant that witches are harming her. Her wild talk makes John realize that Abigail will stop at nothing—even physically harming herself—to get what she wants. John is forced to acknowledge her mental instability, and he gathers courage to tell the truth since he knows he cannot count on Abigail.
By the end, John tells the truth about his affair in court, risking the shame and humiliation that society will bring against him.
Additionally, John changes in his relationship with Elizabeth. At first, he is uncomfortable around his wife because he feels judged. While it’s true that Elizabeth is cautious around John, a big part of John’s problem is his hatred of himself for committing that sin. He is easily angered, especially when Elizabeth brings up Abigail and questions his whereabouts. Outwardly, John is unwilling to accept blame, and his adultery is a source of arguments and great discomfort in his marriage.
However, when Elizabeth is accused, John will stop at nothing to free her, knowing that it is his fault that Abigail named her as a witch. His guilty conscience combines with the forgotten love he has for Elizabeth to give him the courage to stand up in court. He is willing to put down his own name to save his wife.
When the two reconcile, with a baby on the way, John is willing to falsely confess to save himself so he can have his family back. Ultimately, he comes to realize that confessing would be a selfish act, and it would also make him as immoral as he was before. Refusing to tarnish his name, John faces hanging. He knows that he must be a role model for his children, and telling the truth would be a good start. He also knows that he cannot go against his friends who have gone to their deaths rather than lie about who they were.
John finds self-forgiveness, which helps him to stand his ground. He goes to his death having grown as a moral person who stands up for justice and truth.