when John Proctor is making the most important decision of his life what is the importance regarding the structure of the play of the appearance of Rebecca Nurse just ?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I think that it is intensely significant that Rebecca Nurse is brought in to see Proctor "confess."  It is a moment where Proctor no longer sees himself as himself, but rather through the eyes of another.  For Proctor, there is immediate shame because for an instant, he sees his own cowardice through the eyes of another.  Rebecca Nurse's reaction to Proctor is one that his own self- consciousness absorbs.  Proctor sees himself and his own actions as another would.  In this, he feels immediate shame.  This is also seen in his recantation where he stresses that he wishes to not bring further shame to his children.  For Miller, Proctor has to see his actions in a context larger than himself.  The fundamental problem in Salem was that individuals refused to see their actions in a larger scope.  Yet, when Proctor is able to see what he does through the eyes of another, in this case Rebecca Nurse, it becomes clear that he cannot act in a manner for himself and must stand for what is right.  In being able to appropriate the view of others in his view of self, Proctor is able to fully stand for what is right.  Miller might be suggesting that when individuals begin to see their own actions in light of others', there can be hope and redemption in a setting dominated by self- interest and self- absorption.

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