How is John Proctor a dynamic character in The Crucible?

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edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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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The Crucible

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