Discuss the internal and external conflicts of John Proctor in The Crucible.

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e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As the central figure of The Crucible, John Proctor is faced with each of the play's conflicts. He is challenged to achieve moral integrity and humility and challenged also to tell a difficult and unpopular truth which may cause him to be harmed or killed. 

Proctor's initial conflict is an external one. He tries to convince Abigail that all bonds between them are broken and that she should not expect anything more from him yet she refuses to accept this. She represents a failure of integrity for Proctor and dealing with her, as well as his wife, is Proctor's first external conflict. 

He asks for forgiveness from Elizabeth, his wife, and attempts to humble himself before her, admitting his failure. When she won't absolve him at all, he is forced to choose between forgiving himself or continuing in his state of guilt. This is his internal conflict. 

In the end, Proctor accepts his failures and recognizes that one failure does not forfeit his soul. He forgives himself and finds his moral integrity once again intact. 

The external conflict Proctor initially faces is resolved in the resolution of his internal conflict. 

Another external conflict which Proctor faces is the central conflict of the play, dealing with an unpopular truth in public. Proctor must decide whether or not to put himself at risk by challenging the prevailing belief in witchcraft. In doing this he is going against the church leaders (the judges) and going against much of his community. 

Proctor overcomes his fear and acts upon his beliefs. He speaks against Abigail and the court.

...he is determined to tell the truth, even if it means criticizing and antagonizing the investigators.

In doing so he is condemned to death, but he regains his moral position as a man of integrity, individuality, and dedication to the truth. 

edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

John Proctor's internal conflict stems from the fact that he is an independent thinker who has consented to live in a society that demands conformity in thought and action. Though Proctor loves his wife, he has been unfaithful to her.  He admits to lusting for Abigail, but he is ashamed of his moral lapse and knows he will face God's judgment. Once he has been accused of witchcraft by Mary Warren, Proctor struggles with his desire to retain his earthly life, the dignity of his name, and his family upon realizing that keeping those things will require him to give a false confession to help the court legitimize their trials. 

Proctor has many external conflicts. He dislikes Reverend Parris and avoids attending his services, which puts him on the wrong side of the theocratic government that demands frequent church attendance. He has sworn to himself and his wife that the affair with Abigail is over, but Abigail is determined to become his wife. He struggles with Elizabeth to win her forgiveness. Proctor also has a conflict with Putnam, whose greed for power, control, and land pit him against Proctor and his supporters.