What is John Proctor's "crucible," or severe test, that he endures in the drama?

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When John Proctor first appears in act I, he is introduced in the stage directions as "the kind of man ... who cannot refuse support to partisans without drawing their deepest resentment." This suggests that his neighbors have tried and failed to draw him into their quarrels before.

Salem is...

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When John Proctor first appears in act I, he is introduced in the stage directions as "the kind of man ... who cannot refuse support to partisans without drawing their deepest resentment." This suggests that his neighbors have tried and failed to draw him into their quarrels before.

Salem is portrayed as a seething pit of resentment at the best of times. The Reverend Parris, its Minister, and Thomas Putnam, one of the richest and most powerful landowners, are constantly at odds with practically everyone. Giles Corey is exceptionally litigious and proud of it.

Proctor has done well up to this point not to become embroiled in all these conflicts. The witch-hunt changes this and makes him a reluctant hero. His dislike of Parris quickly comes to the fore in act II, and even this causes the Reverend Hale to treat him with some suspicion.

However, Proctor must go further than this. He endures both danger and humiliation when he brings his private affairs before the court in Act III, exposing himself as an adulterer and trying to propel the timid Mary Warren to tell the truth.

Proctor was not necessarily the most heroic character in Salem. Rebecca Nurse, for instance, comes across as a more consistently noble and dignified figure, but it is precisely because Proctor is fallible and initially rather selfish that his trial is so severe. A story with Rebecca Nurse at the center would have been something like a parable of serene martyrdom.

John Proctor is agonized and conflicted. He changes his mind about what to do and seems to stick on a point of procedure when he refuses to sign a confession. His "crucible" is the same as that of the others in Salem who are embroiled in the witch trials, but his personality makes his trial particularly intense, since he is neither a saint nor a coward.

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John Proctor's severe test has to do with whether he is willing to risk his reputation and make his sins known to the world. Abigail Williams tells him very early on in Act One, "We were dancin' in the woods last night, and my uncle leaped in on us. [Betty] took fright is all." She claims that they didn't do any witchcraft, and that their activities were only play. Eight days later, in Act Two, Proctor still has not told anyone what Abigail said, despite the progress of the trials in the town. He tells his wife:

I am only wondering how I may prove what she told me, Elizabeth. If the girl's a saint now, I think it is not easy to prove she's fraud, and the town gone so silly. She told it to me in a room alone -- I have no proof for it.

Proctor does not want to get involved and it seems as though he feels it would be too difficult and risky to try, even though it is the right thing to do. When Mary Warren tells them that Elizabeth's name was mentioned in court that day, Elizabeth renews her claim that Abigail "wants [her] dead" so that Abigail can take Elizabeth's place with John. John denies this, however he does so "without conviction." He tries everything he can to exonerate his wife in Act Three, without actually confessing to his adulterous affair with Abigail, until he sees no other way around it. He presents a document signed by ninety-odd people that attests to his wife's honesty; he brings Mary Warren, with her new honest testimony, to say that she was lying before. Finally, when he is out of options, he admits to the affair in order to convince the court that Abigail is a fraud but it is too little too late. He was wrong to not expose his weakness and sin early on. If he had done so, it might have prevented many deaths.

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I think that Proctor's crucible is becoming an involved person in a time or crisis.  When Proctor is first introduced in Act I and the start of Act II, he is one who does not want to get involved.  He recognizes that there is madness around Salem, but he would rather disengage himself.  His crucible is to what extent and how long can he remain silent.  Slowly, his character begins to change in that he recognizes that his remaining silent actually emboldens those in the position of power that wish to continue what is happening.  The battle for what will later be termed as "his name" is what ends up driving him throughout the drama.  It is his crucible to actually stand for something in a world where few stand for anything.  The intense pressure and emotional "heat" by which this comes about is a crucible for Proctor.  It is not easy.  It is not pleasurable.  Yet, it is a reality that he must endure or face as the drama progresses.  It becomes a crucible for him because it forces him to test his previous resolve of disengagement or not wanting to involve himself with what is happening.  Slowly, Proctor ends up emerging through this crucible as a man with "goodness," as Elizabeth notes, and as someone who will not have this "taken" from him.

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