In The Crucible, what are some of John Proctor's values and how do his actions/sacrifices clearly show them?

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gpane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Proctor’s main value is his sense of personal integrity which leads him into a direct and ultimately tragic confrontation with the court set up to try allegations of witchcraft. Due to the machinations of his spurned lover Abigail,  he and his wife are both incriminated and come before the court. However, rather than make a false confession, he dies upon the scaffold along with those others who also refused to lie, like Rebecca Nurse.  It is true that he also has terrible moments of wavering and does indeed sign a confession before tearing it up. But his retraction of his confession proves his personal integrity beyond doubt, and makes him the hero of the play.

Another of Proctor’s values is his hard-headed sense of pragmatism. He sees other people for what they are – for instance he is aware that Parris is utterly selfish and greedy – and this means he can see right through all the witchcraft hysteria and recognize it for what it really is: a cover for people to bring old feuds, grudges and hatreds out into the open. It is also, of course, the result of fear which spreads so rapidly through the community. There is nothing supernatural going on, though, and Proctor is one of the few who realizes this. Therefore his common-sense approach to life, his pragmatism, also leads him into conflict with the court and motivates his final self-sacrifice. He refuses to yield to suggestions of malign supernatural forces that he personally does not believe in.

Proctor’s values are highlighted through the play in his interactions with other characters. Both in public and in private, he is quite firm in his dealings with other people; he seems he to expect them to live up to the same kind of moral standards that he sets for himself (although he doesn’t really get preachy about it).  However his affair with Abigail has engendered a deep sense of guilt within him. He tries to put things right by breaking it off but with disastrous results as Abigail takes up the cause of vengeance against him However, essentially it is his own sense of guilt that leads him to the final tragic outcome of the play.  He feels that he has broken his own moral code in his dalliance with Abigail: ‘My honesty is broke,’ he tells Elizabeth near the end of the play: ‘I am no good man.’   In fact, his self-sacrifice at the end can be viewed as a kind of atonement on his part for his lapse.