What can you tell in Act 2 about the relationship between John and Elizabeth Proctor?

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favoritethings's profile pic

favoritethings | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Not only does John try to please Elizabeth, but Elizabeth tries to please John, too.  When he goes to taste the stew she's prepared, "She sits and watches him taste it."  Then, when he compliments her cooking, she "blush[es] with pleasure" and says that she "took great care" with the meal.  It seems clear that Elizabeth wants to make John happy, and she seems to want him to know how much his happiness means to her as well: she tells him how much care she took in making his meal.  It seems as though they are both walking on eggshells a bit, hoping to prove to the other how hard they are trying.

However, we have two chances to see that John is still lying to his wife.  First, he seasons the stew when she's out of the room, and then tells her "It's well seasoned."  Such a small lie seems like no big deal, but it probably didn't seem like a big deal when he neglected to tell his wife that he was alone with Abigail when she told him that Betty's illness didn't have anything to do with witchcraft.  Now, however, the information has become important because John is afraid that no one will believe him if it's his word against Abigail's.  When Elizabeth learns that he didn't tell her the whole truth before, "she has suddenly lost all faith in him."  John may be trying to please his wife, but he fails to do the most important thing and be honest with her.

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asorrell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

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In the beginning of Act 2, there is some obvious tension between John and Elizabeth.  They don't seem that warm with each other.  We of course find out later that this is because John had an affair with Abigail during Elizabeth's extended illness.  This is also of course why Elizabeth fired Abigail.

In this act we see John making an effort to please Elizabeth.  As the act starts, John tastes the dinner Elizabeth has cooking on the fire.  He adds salt to it, but then later tells her "It's well seasoned."  He talks about the crops and buying a heifer and asks "How would that please you?" Clearly, he wants to make Elizabeth happy.  But just as clear is the strain of their relationship.

Just a few pages later, John and Elizabeth argue.  Elizabeth wants John to go to Salem immediately and tell what he knows about Abigail.  In the same discussion she finds out that Proctor had been alone with Abigail.  She says, "Why then it is not as you told me."  John is immediately defensive and says "Woman.  I'll not have your suspicion anymore."    The argument continues and John expresses that he feels that Elizabeth will never forgive him.  He says, "You will not judge me more, Elizabeth."  They continue to argue until Mary Warren arrives.

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