In "The Crucible", what event causes Proctor to recant his confession and what is the significance of this moment?

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sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

John Proctor has been imprisoned for being a witch.  He is approached by Danforth, who is seeking a confession.  Although, like Hale, Danforth has realized that the court was wrong in their convictions, he can't admit his error.  He is demanding all those accused to confess, then they will be allowed to be set free.  Rebecca Nurse and Elizabeth Proctor have refused, believing it would lack integrity to deny their faith in an attempt to save their own life.  Danforth hopes that he will have luck with Proctor, and that this will cause the women to follow suit.

At first, Danforth is right, and Proctor does confess, though he stops short of implicating others.  Danforth accepts this, but he does demand that Proctor sign a confession to be posted for others to see.  Proctor recoils at this idea, insisting he can't possibly do that:

Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name?

Proctor realizes that all he has is his reputation, and he knows that putting his confession to print will ruin that reputation.  He refuses to do that, preferring to die honest than to live a lie.  It is the climatic in two ways:  it is the first time Proctor stands up for his own integrity and for the truth, and it is the moment that breaks the influence of the court over the town.

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The Crucible

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