How does John Proctor's character change from the beginning of The Crucible to the end of the play?

Think specifically about his interactions with Abigail Williams and Elizabeth Proctor. 

John Proctor's character changes from the beginning of The Crucible to the end in that he is initially reluctant to accept blame for his unfaithfulness to Elizabeth and his affair with Abigail but is, in the end, willing to do anything to save Elizabeth, including confess to his adultery.

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John Proctor is a different man by the end of The Crucible, as his character evolves from a self-loathing sinner to an upright, moral man.

At the beginning of the play, John is intent on hiding his affair from everyone—even at the expense of others’ safety. He guesses immediately...

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John Proctor is a different man by the end of The Crucible, as his character evolves from a self-loathing sinner to an upright, moral man.

At the beginning of the play, John is intent on hiding his affair from everyone—even at the expense of others’ safety. He guesses immediately that Abigail is playing a game, and he wants her to tell the truth so innocent people don’t get hurt. However, she is not interested in what is right or moral—she is only interested in him. While John recognizes this fact, he fails to recognize how far Abigail will go in her delusion that she can win him back.

John begins to realize the truth after so many people, including Elizabeth, are accused, and he tries to stop the hysteria. Abigail speaks of cleaning up the world and taking Elizabeth’s place; she is also adamant that witches are harming her. Her wild talk makes John realize that Abigail will stop at nothing—even physically harming herself—to get what she wants. John is forced to acknowledge her mental instability, and he gathers courage to tell the truth since he knows he cannot count on Abigail.

By the end, John tells the truth about his affair in court, risking the shame and humiliation that society will bring against him.

Additionally, John changes in his relationship with Elizabeth. At first, he is uncomfortable around his wife because he feels judged. While it’s true that Elizabeth is cautious around John, a big part of John’s problem is his hatred of himself for committing that sin. He is easily angered, especially when Elizabeth brings up Abigail and questions his whereabouts. Outwardly, John is unwilling to accept blame, and his adultery is a source of arguments and great discomfort in his marriage.

However, when Elizabeth is accused, John will stop at nothing to free her, knowing that it is his fault that Abigail named her as a witch. His guilty conscience combines with the forgotten love he has for Elizabeth to give him the courage to stand up in court. He is willing to put down his own name to save his wife.

When the two reconcile, with a baby on the way, John is willing to falsely confess to save himself so he can have his family back. Ultimately, he comes to realize that confessing would be a selfish act, and it would also make him as immoral as he was before. Refusing to tarnish his name, John faces hanging. He knows that he must be a role model for his children, and telling the truth would be a good start. He also knows that he cannot go against his friends who have gone to their deaths rather than lie about who they were.

John finds self-forgiveness, which helps him to stand his ground. He goes to his death having grown as a moral person who stands up for justice and truth.

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John Proctor's attitude and perspective change drastically throughout the play The Crucible. At the beginning of the play, Proctor is curious about the rumors of witchcraft in Salem, but refuses to participate in the hysteria. When he meets alone with Abigail, their affair is revealed, and she tells him that the girls were simply messing around in the woods. In Act Two, John's cold relationship with his wife is portrayed, and Proctor becomes angry after speaking with Mary Warren about the court. When Elizabeth is taken away, John vows to return to Salem to save his wife's life. Proctor is now directly involved in the witch trials and argues on behalf of his wife. Proctor even displays his love for his wife by tarnishing his good name after he admits that he had an affair with Abigail. Unfortunately, Proctor is arrested and also put on trial for witchcraft after Elizabeth lies to court officials in order to protect her husband's reputation. While in prison, Proctor initially decides to save his life by giving a false confession. However, Proctor has a change of heart and courageously rips his confession papers, which will likely incite the citizens of Salem to riot against the court once he is hanged. Proctor goes from being a non-involved citizen, with a heavy conscience, to a redeemed, noble man at the center of the conflict. John Proctor begins the play as a broken sinner but atones for his sins by refusing to capitulate to the corrupt court.  

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Proctor's character changes drastically from the beginning of the play to the end, and is perhaps the most important element of the play. He  goes from a hot-headed adulterer to someone who truly wants redemption and make things right by his wife whom he has wronged.

When the audience is first introduced to Proctor in Act I, he has a conversation with Abigail. This scene reveals to the audience that they had been together before and that Proctor has committed adultery with Abigail.

In the next Act, Proctor finds out that his wife has been accused of witchcraft, and Abigail is the one who has made the accusation. On some level, Proctor knows that it is his fault that the accusation was made. He decounces Abigail and vows to make it right. "My wife will never die for me..." he cries, "....that goodness will not die for me." Proctor knows now that he must do anything he can to save his wife. She is a good person, and he knows he must make things right.

As the play goes on, Proctor tries to convince the court that he is telling the truth; that the girls are lying and Elizabeth is innocent. He even goes as far as to admit that he has slept with Abigail because he believes this admission will make the court see that Abigail is a liar. Still, the court sides with the girls and refuses to see the truth.

Proctor is eventually convinced to make a confession of his own. By now, he has given up every shred of dignity he has. He confesses verbally, but when he is asked to sign a paper that will be hung for all of Salem to see, he recants, exclaiming

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!

Though Proctor has committed one of the worst kinds of sins by committing adultery against his wife, he is perhaps one of the most upstanding men of Salem. He is willing to shed his dignity in order to save his wife. He is one of the few who sees the truth of the events. Though he, in the end, dies for his pride, he at least dies with the truth.

 

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