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What is the climax in The Crucible?

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Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The tension in the play builds and builds, leading up to the final confrontation between John Proctor and his judges, most notably, the Deputy Governor Danforth. Proctor has made his confession, a lie, stating that he was in league with the devil, so that he might save his own life and go home to his family once again. However, when Danforth demands Proctor's signature on the written confession, Proctor begins to doubt his decision to lie. Finally, 

His breast heaving, his eyes staring, Proctor tears the paper and crumples it, and he is weeping in fury, but erect.

It is in this moment that the play's most significant conflict, Proctor's inner conflict concerning his own goodness, begins to resolve. Reverend Hale yells at him, "Man, you will hang!  You cannot!" to which Proctor replies,

I can. And there's your first marvel, that I can. You have made your magic now, for now I do think I see some shred of goodness in John Proctor. Not enough to weave a banner with, but white enough to keep it from such dogs.

Proctor now realizes his own goodness, that he can be redeemed. He may have sinned before now, but that sin hasn't spoiled his soul, as he once thought. In this moment, when he tears the confession and recognizes his own integrity, we see the play's climax.

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Lizette Eaves eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Think of the climax of a work as the "Point of no return."  Once the climax occurs, the audience knows how the work will end.  At first, for the audience, it looks like we're going to get our happy ending; Elizabeth has convinced John to lie and admit that he has been guilty of witchcraft.  We know this lie will save his life, even though we know he feels guilty about lying and ruining his name. Eventually, John can't take it- he knows his name is more important than living a lie.

Here we have our climax.  Once he rips up his confession, we know how this will end.  He's guilty in the eyes of the court, and therefore he will hang.

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drahmad1989 | Student

tearing coffession papers by Procter is the climax in the crucible.

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nimesh98 | Student

The climax of a play or another narrative work, such as a short story or a novel, can be defined as (1) the turning point at which the conflict begins to resolve itself for better or worse, or as
(2) the final and most exciting event in a series of events.

The climax of The Crucible occurs, according to the first definition, when the court finds John Proctor guilty after he admits that he had been intimate with Abigail Williams.

According to the second definition, the climax occurs when John Proctor decides it is more important to tell the truth than to save his life with a lie. So he tears up his false confession to witchcraft and gives himself over for hanging.

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