In The Crucible, discuss how a protagonist's primary motivation changes throughout the drama.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The easiest example of this would be John Proctor.  Yet, I think that the change that Elizabeth Proctor undergoes throughout the drama is as powerful, if not more than that of her husband.  On one hand, Elizabeth starts out the drama in an emotionally challenging relationship with her husband and cannot see past her own condition.  The early stages of the play display Elizabeth's emotional motivation as protecting her own life and her own notion of the good.  It is for this reason that both she and her husband cannot speak of Abigail's accusations without an undercurrent of mistrust and skepticism, given what happened in their own marriage.  Yet, throughout the course of the play, as the town devolves into greater madness, Elizabeth recognizes a larger element at stake.  Her desire to remain inward is impossible as the accusations reach a fevered pitch.  She is forced to take the stand and her motivation changes in that while she lies to protect her husband, she also understands his good nature.  Elizabeth's fear and emotional frigidity melts as the play progresses.  It is interesting to note that while the town ends up becoming progressively worse, the relationship between Elizabeth and John strengthens, with both of them trusting one another more and being able to turn to the other in a more open manner.  This is completed when John recognizes that he must stand for the truth and Elizabeth no longer protests.  It is at this point that Elizabeth's motivation has transcended beyond her own condition and rather towards an idea.  Being the perfect wife, the perfect soul mate, or even in acknowledging the goodness of her husband becomes her motivation.  When she says, "God forbid I take it from him," in speaking about John's sense of honor and commitment to the truth at the end of the play as he walks towards his death, Elizabeth's motivation is clear to all as she has become a transcendent figure who stands for values that are permanent and beyond what is happening in Salem.

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