How is John Proctor a dynamic character in The Crucible?

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In many ways, John Proctor is a dynamic Tragic Hero akin to the likes of Creon and Oedipus. He is upstanding, virtuous, and well liked by his community. However, he is far from removed from the realm of human error. This fatal error is Proctor's preoccupation with Abigail Williams. She...

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In many ways, John Proctor is a dynamic Tragic Hero akin to the likes of Creon and Oedipus. He is upstanding, virtuous, and well liked by his community. However, he is far from removed from the realm of human error. This fatal error is Proctor's preoccupation with Abigail Williams. She is selfish, morally vacuous, and at times even seemingly outright malevolent. Nonetheless, Proctor finds her magnetic and cannot overcome his lust for her. Abigail's jealousy for his wife is what sets the tragic events of The Crucible in motion.

Proctor's change occurs when he goes from a man who is largely concerned with public appearances to one that is concerned with his own spirit. At first, Proctor plays an immense part in Abigail's machinations by refusing to admit to his adultery out of fear of public opinion. Once he is finally ready to give the truth, it is far too late, as the hysteria and hatred have blazed out of control to the point that even the truth is useless to stop them.

In the end, ironically, it is an act of withholding a confession, this time a false one, that allows Proctor to redeem his spirit. He becomes something of a martyr for truth.

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John Proctor is considered a dynamic character because he experiences a significant internal change throughout the play. At the beginning of the play, John Proctor is a relatively reserved man with a good reputation throughout the community. He does not want to be involved in the witchcraft hysteria sweeping through Salem. John also harbors a dark secret, which he knows will ruin his positive reputation if revealed. In act 2, John is reluctant to get involved by telling the court officials that Abigail is lying. However, Proctor immediately experiences a change of heart after Elizabeth is arrested.

In act 3, Proctor decides to openly challenge the court by traveling to Salem with Mary Warren to tell the truth about the girls. Once Proctor learns that Deputy Governor Danforth and Judge Hathorne are unwilling to accept Mary's testimony, he sacrifices his reputation in hopes of saving his wife's life. John publicly admitting his infidelity displays his emotional development and change of heart. While John is in jail, he struggles with an ultimatum: should he confess and save his life or remain obstinate by refusing to capitulate to the court? After John finally decides to confess, he signs his name on the document but refuses to give the signed confession to Danforth. Knowing that his confession will indirectly harm other innocent citizens and justify the court's heinous actions, John tears his confession and becomes a martyr.

John's decisions to sacrifice his reputation and then his life for the good of the community portrays his emotional development and growth. By the end of the play, John has become a sympathetic, righteous man, who atones for his past sin by sacrificing his life in hopes of damaging the corrupt court. 

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In a drama, dynamic characters undergo changes in behavior, outlook, or attitude. John Proctor's capacity for independent thought while living in a theocratic, conformist environment forces him to undergo many changes.

Initially, John is a forceful personality, drawing sharp lines for Abigail, Elizabeth, and Mary Warren when they stand up to him. He is unrelenting when Abigail tries her best to reinvigorate their affair, forceful with Mary when she defies him by returning to Salem after he forbids it, and rigid with Elizabeth when she appeals to him to expose Abigail as a fraud.

Gradually, John becomes less sure of himself. He realizes that he cannot control Abigail or prevent her from laying waste to others' reputations and lives. When the court exercises its authority and arrests his wife and friends, John realizes that he has come up against the limits of his own agency in the repressive environment of Salem. He understands that his own sheer force of will is not enough to prevent the execution of his innocent friends, and he temporarily loses his faith when he shouts "God is dead" when he is arrested.

Ultimately, John goes to his death a changed man, relinquishing his earthly life and secure in the knowledge that he will face God as a sinner, but not as one who has renounced his faith by engaging in witchcraft or lying to save himself.

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Proctor begins the play as a confident and uncompromising figure. By the end of the play, he has regained some of his confidence but only after a series of challenges sees him reduced to false confessions, painful admissions, and soul-searching adversity. 

In his first appearance in the play, Proctor is firm and direct. He speaks to Abigail with real authority. Returning home to Elizabeth, we find Proctor penitent and hesitant, though still rather firm. The confidence of character is intact when Proctor convinces Mary Warren to testify at the court about Abigail's lies as well, but this spirit wavers when Proctor is before the court. 

When he tells of his affair with Abigail, Proctor becomes somewhat desparate. In prison, he is even more desparate and begins to compromise his integrity. This is his greatest test and his lowest moment, but it leads to his highest.

 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.

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