The Crucible Questions and Answers
by Arthur Miller

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What is the central conflict that is resolved in The Crucible?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There are several conflicts in the play but one could argue that John Proctor's internal conflict with himself is the central conflict, which is resolved at the end of the play. For the majority of the play, John wrestles with his soul and struggles with the guilt of committing adultery with Abigail Williams. He also wishes to preserve his reputation and does not wish for his sins to be made public. Unfortunately, John Proctor discovers that Danforth and Hathorne are absolutely relentless in their defense of the court and ends up publicly confessing to lechery, which immediately ruins his reputation. By publicly confessing his sins, Proctor feels some relief that his conscience is relatively clear but does not want to die.

In Act Four, John Proctor faces another internal conflict as he struggles to decide if he should offer a false confession to save his life. John is aware that offering a false confession will only give the corrupt court more leverage and justify their proceedings. He also does not want to become a martyr and put himself alongside righteous citizens like Rebecca Nurse and Martha Corey. After John offers a false confession, Danforth wants him to sign his name to put on public display, which will give the court leverage. John Proctor resolves his internal conflict by ripping his confession and willingly dying a martyr. After ripping his confession, Reverend Hale tells John that he will die and Proctor reveals that he has finally cleared his conscience by saying:

"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." (Miller, 146)

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accessteacher eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I would want to argue that the central conflict that is resolved during the course of this excellent play is the conflict between John and his wife, Elizabeth. In the final act, when John and Elizabeth are given time to spend together having been separated and jailed for three months, they are able to finally resolve the differences that they have. After Elizabeth confesses her role in their division, note how she counsels John:

Do what you will. But let none be your judge. There be no higher judge under Heaven than Proctor is! Forgive me, forgive me, John--I never knew such goodness in the world.

With these final words it is clear that their love for each other is resurrected and their acceptance of each other is likewise re-established. Elizabeth's final words as John goes off to be hung, "He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!" speaks of an amazing pride and love, indicating the healing of the breach between them.

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