John Proctor's death in The Crucible was NOT all for nothing. Why?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

John Proctor's death was anything but wasted.  Through his death he saved not only his own soul, he saved the others who were in prison or accused from suffering the same fate.

As the post above says, Proctor is a man to whom both name and character are worth something.  He...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

John Proctor's death was anything but wasted.  Through his death he saved not only his own soul, he saved the others who were in prison or accused from suffering the same fate.

As the post above says, Proctor is a man to whom both name and character are worth something.  He has sinned, and no one realizes that more than he does.  He sees his heart as being black and tainted, unworthy of what he knows to be true and good and of God.  In this final scene, he even considers giving them a lie since he's already such a tainted sinner.  Instead, he comes to realize--just in time--that by standing up to the accusations and telling the truth, he has redeemed, at least in part, his good name.  He has forgiven himself and can now accept God's forgiveness.  It's the only thing he has left, and he protects it--for Elizabeth, for his sons, and for posterity--even though it costs him his life.  His death buys him eternity in heaven.

The second thing his death achieves is the end of the witch-hunting hysteria in Salem.  When he--along with Martha and Rebecca--is accused, sentenced, and hanged, the town and even the court recognize that something has gone awry.  Unlike some of the others who were more on the fringes of society, these good, God-fearing people being hanged caused everyone to reflect and reconsider what was happening in their town. 

Proctor was determined to save his wife from the gallows and convince the court that the girls--especially Abigail--were lying.  He had to die to accomplish that goal, but he did it.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Proctor's death was not in vain.  Simply put, this is proven with his stance at the end of the play that brings about his execution represents ascending to the level of extraordinary human being at a moment when there was only ordinary, or less than, around him.  When Proctor refuses to acquiesce to the banality of what others are doing, when he takes the stand that will seal his fate, and when he ascends to an almost transcendent figure it is because he stands up for what is right.  Proctor's death is not all for nothing because it is a moment when a human being represents being right and doing right simultaneously.  This is a difficult thing to do and Proctor accomplishes it.  Other moments in the play from Proctor, Elizabeth, and Giles Corey can prove this.   He is passionate about his refusal to confess to something that he knows is not true. He is passionate about his mere name:  "Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul, leave me my name!"  I think you can find other lines to echo such thoughts, as well.  With these words, I think Proctor's death is the moment when others realize the insanity of Salem's governing body in believing Abigail's accusations and how all the forced confessions and silence while neighbors and friends suffered represents a moral wrong in its own right.  It is at this moment, when Proctor is willing to die for his beliefs, that the synthesis of theory and action come together as one.  It is a moment that was not all for nothing for it stood for everything.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team