Why is John Proctor unwilling to sign the confession? What is the significance of his "name"?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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John Proctor has lost everything, but the one thing he has left is his good name, his reputation. As John says himself, he's already given the authorities his soul, what he won't do is give them his good name. If he signs the confession and it's nailed to the church door where everyone can see it, then that reputation will be destroyed for good. In making this decision, John's thinking of his children and his children's children. If he signs that confession, then they'll have to live with the stigma and the shame for the rest of their lives. John knows that he's damned whatever he does. So at this crucial moment in his life he can only think about what's best for his family and their descendants.

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linda-allen eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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John Proctor refuses to sign a confession that he served the devil by practicing witchcraft because it is a lie. He has lost everything--his home, his family, his community--but he refusesd to give up his good name. When confronted about having committed adultery, he admits it, even though he is confessing to having sinned. He does so because he knows that he has done wrong and must suffer the consequences. But when he is asked to sign the false confession just to end the trials and punishments, he will not do it. He does not want his sons to grow up with a father who is labeled a liar or who chose the easy way out when so many of his friends and neighbors have been killed. Having an honorable name means more to him than living under a lie. When he says that he is "not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang," he means it. He would rather die with them than live knowing that they died for nothing.

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