What does Proctor’s death mean to his wife, Elizabeth, in The Crucible?

In The Crucible, John Proctor's death allows his wife, Elizabeth, to see him as a hero and a martyr, as the faults of his past are purified by the manner of his death.

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In The Crucible, Elizabeth Proctor's last words, and the last words in the play, are spoken as her husband, John, goes to his death:

He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!

Elizabeth is obviously distraught that her husband is about to die, but her distress is not as simple as that of Hale, or even Parris, both of whom try to prevent Proctor's death. John Proctor's death is tragic in the most purely classical sense. It gives his life an aura of nobility and purity which no life can have while it is being lived. During the course of the play, Proctor is one of the more admirable characters, but he is frequently compromised. His guilt over his affair with Abigail and his equivocation over whether to stand by his principles and his neighbors prevent him from being simply heroic. At the end of the play, however, his martyrdom in the cause of truth and justice purifies the life it concludes.

This is what Proctor's death means to his wife and why she ends the play by proclaiming that he has his goodness now. It will be her consolation in bereavement to remember her husband as a hero who stood up for his principles, and his sins and doubts will disappear in the uncomplicated martyrdom of his memory.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 16, 2021
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