Discuss the significance of Elizabeth Proctor's characterization throughout the play.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Elizabeth's characterization is of vital importance to the development of the play's themes and ideas.  She is seen as distant and cold from John and their marriage in Act II.  She is unable to fully accept the reality of what happened in terms of John's infidelity.  Yet, the events of Salem force her to look beyond her own sense of self.  This is critical in the play's main ideas that political events force individuals to take a stand and to envision consciousness as larger than themselves.  This is seen in Elizabeth's characterization in Act III, when she knows that her words have impact on saving her husband's life.  She ends up lying to try to save him and in doing so, a major element of her characterization is revealed in that she is not so driven or consumed with her own pain, seeing past that for something larger.  In the final act of the play, this evolution has reached its zenith when she comes to represent transcendent values in a contingent time.  One of the major ideas that comes out of the drama is that human beings can represent values of decency and honor even when their social contexts fail to do so.  In this, Elizabeth recognizes the importance of her husband standing for what is right, for being honorable in a dishonorable time.  In doing so, Elizabeth comes to be seen as a transcendent figure in a time of contingency, in main part due to her characterization.