Is John Proctor an evil character?Was John Proctor an evil man for betraying his marriage vows and prideful for choosing death rather than signing his confession? Or do you see "some shred of...

Is John Proctor an evil character?

Was John Proctor an evil man for betraying his marriage vows and prideful for choosing death rather than signing his confession? Or do you see "some shred of goodness in John Proctor"? Why or why not?

Expert Answers
sarahc418 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think the way he dies in the end is very noble. He makes a very strong stance against the God that the judges and accusers are believing in just as he stands against the God that Parris prays to with his golden candlesticks. John Proctor is a simple farmer who believes in the purity and love of God not in the public forum with materialistic idols or in order to save himself. Once he confesses to what the judges believe he has done, Proctor does not believe that it should need to be written, signed or even confessed in public. It should be a confession between him and God. What more do they need? He stands up to the man-made construct of what the law wants God and religion to look like in the play.

I don't however think he is a truly evil character. Yes, he should be criticized for his affair with Abigail, and his distance from his wife in Act 2. However, he shows that all men sin - even the puritanical men of Salem. It doesn't suggest that he is evil or a Satanic man.

Check out a good character analysis here on Enotes.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I definitely see good in John Proctor.  It is true that he cheated on his wife.  However, over the course of the play, he grows and becomes more honorable.  That is how I would interpret his choosing to die.

You can't (I don't think) criticize someone for acting dishonorably (cheating on his wife) and then turn around and also criticize him for acting honorably (refusing to lie).  This would not be fair to Proctor.  He does not make the choice I would make at the end of the play, but it is hard to criticize someone for not wanting to lie.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

John Proctor is in no way what I would consider an evil person--someone who deliberately does harm to others. He is certainly a sinner who has done some things--one major thing--he knows is wrong and is not proud of, and he does have a rather short temper when he is passionate about something. But we are all sinners, and sinning alone does not make us evil. John is both capable and worthy of being redeemed, something he discovers just before he dies. He is not evil.

e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Proctor is good. His wife tells him that she believes he is a good man and she is the person most likely to harshly (and accurately) judge her husband's moral standing. 

Having made a mistake and broken his vows, Proctor is certainly not a perfect person. But you don't have to be perfect to be good.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

No, Proctor was not an evil person.  Flawed?  Certainly.  In an unhappy marriage?  Yep.  Lonely?  Sure enough.  In the end though, he is merely human, like all of us, escept he lived in a time where everyone knew your failings eventually, and made you pay a very heavy social price for them.

lynne10 | Student

John Proctor wasn't necessarily an evil or good person; he was in between. He is human like everyone else and everyone has faults. His affair with abigial williams was disrespectful to his wife but it proves that everyone lives in sin. All people live in sin regardless of how hard we try to fight it we sin. In the end i think his death was noble. He decided not to sign the confession and die because he didn't want to lie. He didn't want to tell a false truth to satisfied someone else. He made the right decision by telling the judge his truth and saying abigial was lying. John Proctor died trying to tell people the truth about the lies and deceit that was being spread and died in the process.

Read the study guide:
The Crucible

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