Who is the central character in The Crucible and why?

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One could argue that Abigail Williams is the central character in that she is the catalyst for virtually everything that happens in the play. Without Abigail there would be no witch-hunt in Salem. She's the one who sets the whole thing in motion and adds fuel to the fire at...

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One could argue that Abigail Williams is the central character in that she is the catalyst for virtually everything that happens in the play. Without Abigail there would be no witch-hunt in Salem. She's the one who sets the whole thing in motion and adds fuel to the fire at every opportunity. Before long, she's the single most powerful individual in town, striking fear into the heart of everyone. Abbie becomes so powerful that it gets to the point where just one word from those lying lips of hers is enough to send an innocent person to the gallows.

If one looked at a playbill of a production of The Crucible, or at the cast list of a film version, then John Proctor would be the lead role. But virtually everything that he does is in response to something that Abbie has already done. At every step of the way, he's reacting to events rather than shaping them.

With Abbie, it's the other way round. She's making things, very bad things, happen, and all anyone can do, John included, is to react as best they can. At no point does anyone wrest the initiative away from Abbie, and that's why one could reasonably argue that she, and not John Proctor, is actually the central character in the play.

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One could argue that John Proctor is the play's central character and tragic hero.

John Proctor is depicted as a conflicted individual who feels extremely guilty for having an affair with Abigail Williams and attempts to stop the witch trials by exposing its corruption. Abigail Williams is the play's primary antagonist, and she desperately wishes to be with John Proctor. After Abigail Williams falsely accuses Elizabeth Proctor of attempted murder, John Proctor becomes the central character of the play. John Proctor proceeds to travel to Salem, persuades Mary Warren to confess that the girls are lying, and publicly confesses to committing adultery with Abigail Williams. The audience sympathizes with John Proctor and is primarily focused on his difficult situation.

John Proctor's actions not only drive the plot of the play but his situation also intrigues the audience—the audience is inclined to hope that he can save his wife and expose the corrupt court proceedings. In the fourth act of the play, John Proctor wrestles with the decision to offer a false confession in order to save his life or die a martyr. At this point in the play, Abigail Williams has fled Salem, and John's decision to save his own life or sacrifice himself to disband the court holds the audience's suspense. At the end of the play, John Proctor ends up atoning for his past sins and redeems himself by tearing his confession and dying a martyr.

One could argue that The Crucible is much more than a play about the Salem witch trials and is actually John Proctor's redemption story.

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If you are asking which character is the protagonist, the answer can be quite interesting. Without a protagonist, there can be no conflict and, therefore, no progression of plot. I wonder if this protagonist could even be something or someone not even in the list of characters? Is it possible that the characters could all be antagonists to the elusive yet somehow omnipresent main character 'self-righteousness?' Any thoughts?

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Although Abigail is an important character, John Proctor is the main character because he is the one challenged to make the most important decisions during the course of the play. Early in the play, Miller reveals that he had had an affair with Abigail, the leader of the girls during play's version of the Salem Witchcraft Trials. He is clearly troubled by his behavior and trying to make amends to his wife. He is the one major character who seems to be searching for the truth, not carried away by the girls' accusations. Ironically, in his determination to expose Abigail, he is forced to admit his own adultery and, ends up being taken into custody himself. He finally learns the importance of integrity when granted as chance at freedom. He recants his confession "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? I have given you my soul, leave me my name!"
It is a lesson he teaches the audience, but unfortunately, the magistrates do not learn this and John is hanged. But in losing his life, John is able to keep his reputation,This contrasts with Abigail, who was once the most powerful figure in Salem, and in the end she is forced to run away, her reputation in tatters because she never really sought the truth.

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