I understand that in The Crucible, John Proctor is a tragic hero. What message is the author attempting to convey to the reader by having Proctor as a tragic hero?

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price7781 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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The best thing a writer can do when developing his characters is to make the reader see himself in that character.  Arthur Miller does a wonderful job of developing John Proctor is such a way that we forgive him and can empathize with his situation.  A tragic hero often suffers for his actions and decisions.  Usually, this suffering goes beyond what the character deserves.  This happens to John when he is hanged for defying the Puritan Church when he had an affair with Abigail and would not confess to it.  His decision to hide his affair causes Elizabeth’s imprisonment and John’s eventual death by hanging.  Tragic heroes also learn from their mistakes, and in this case, John realizes the consequences of his actions, but lets his pride keep him from signing the paper the Judges want.  By doing so, he is declaring himself a witch.  To John, this lie is too much to bear because it is false and against his religious beliefs.  As readers, we can sympathize with John’s stand to not give in and sign a “lie.”  He knows that by doing so, he will bring disrespect upon his name.  He can’t do that because of the children he leaves behind.  In the end, he goes to his death wiser by taking responsibility for his actions.

John and tragic heroes are placed in stories so we can learn from them and see ourselves through their eyes.  We understand the tragic hero’s conflicts as human beings, and we can relate their circumstances to our own.  We all make mistakes, maybe not to the extent that John does, but it is through story telling that we realize that we are all flawed as humans.

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