The Crucible – the Main Character of John Proctor
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In the novel The Crucible, author Arthur Miller uses varying degrees of goodness and evil to control the flow of the story while showcasing a Puritan towns superstitions and fear of the devil to justify the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. The central character in Salem is John Proctor, an outspoken, successful, and well-respected farmer who chooses to maintain a certain distance from the church. Religious at heart, this man who has sinned, openly condemns the witch trials while hiding a secret that could discredit the main accuser, Abigail Williams. John Proctor is a man consumed by guilt, who draws on his contempt for Reverend Parris, his love for his wife, and his need to take responsibility for his actions to gain the strength of character it takes to publicly confess his sins, denounce Abigail Williams, and save his soul.
As soon as Reverend Parris is appointed to the church in Salem John Proctor begins to resent the ministers superior attitude and greed. An outspoken man, Proctor takes every opportunity to criticize Reverend Parris and the now corrupt church. This resentment leads John to use his wife Elizabeths illness as an excuse to stay away from Sunday services, a decision that will come back to haunt the Proctors in the future. On the very first day that the town starts buzzing about witches, John questions Reverend Parris motives in front of several of Salems most prominent citizens when he learns that Parris has sent for the Reverend John Hale, an expert on witches, without calling a
town meeting first. A firm believer that the citizens should decide on Salems course of action; John uses this situation to let everyone know that he feels talk of witchcraft is ridiculous and that the minister is over stepping his bounds. The confrontation leads to a discussion about the reverends demands for money and housing, a conversation that Proctor resumes with Reverend Hale when he visits the Proctor home at a later date. Led by his desire to punish any one who would oppose him, Reverend Parris directs Reverend Hale to the Proctor home. In his search for devil worshippers, Hale questions the
Proctors about their absences from Sunday church services. John eagerly responds to the inquiry stating, “since we built the church there were pewter candlesticks upon the altar; but when Parris came, and for twenty week he preach nothin but golden candlesticks until he had them. I labor the earth from dawn of day to blink of night, and I tell you true, when I look to heaven and see my money glaring at his elbows – it hurt my prayer, sir it hurt my prayer. I think sometimes, the man dreams cathedrals, not clapboard meeting houses” (65). Proctor continues to explain his absences by denouncing Parris
godliness when he says that he was unable to have his last born baptized because he could ” … see no light of God…” (65), in the minister. Satisfied that they are good Christian people, the Reverend Hale prepares to leave the Proctor house. A deputy who has a charge of witchcraft against Elizabeth Proctor greets him at the door. After Elizabeths arrest, determined to save the woman he loves, John publicly denounces Reverend Parris and the witch trials that the minister has instigated when he goes to court and states under oath, “I – I have no love for Mr. Parris. It is no secret. But God I surely love” (90).
It is obvious that John Proctor cares for and respects his wife when he refuses to complicate his adulterous mistakes by turning away from an obsessed Abigail Williams. That caring respect is revitalized into loving devotion when Elizabeth is unjustly charged as a witch. He promises her, “I will bring you home. I will bring you home soon” (77), as she leaves. When Proctor discovers that it Abigail accused his wife, he realizes that he has kept his affair a secret for too long. Johns selfish desire to remain respected in the community has turned him into a weak man and given Abigail the upper hand. His love for his wife makes Proctor desperate to convince his young housekeeper Mary Warren, to go to the court and relate everything she knows about the lies that Abigail Williams and the other accusers are telling. In order to get what he wants, John threatens “… I will bring your guts into your mouth but