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Arthur Miller's Vision of John Proctor' Personality in his Novel 'The Crucible'

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In the beginning of the play, Miller introduces the character John Proctor as an individual that remains unalterable with Proctor’s stance on honesty and integrity, unlike the narrow-minded Salem community. In Act I, Miller presents John Proctor as a bold man, standing up to hypocrites. Further on, Proctor argues with the Putnams and Reverend Parris due to bizarre accusations about witchcraft. Miller exhibits John Proctor’s indications that Putnam cannot chide the devil for his children’s deaths arguing. “I see none dying. This society will be to be a bag to swing around your head, Mr. Putnam”. This shows that John Proctor thinks rationally about other people’s actions. Proctor is standing up to egocentric Putnam because he is trying to get land for himself and also using the community’s hysteria as a weapon to achieve personal gains. This portrays his sharp and quick-witted persona and also displays the dangers of ideologies in Salem, in which the innocent is condemned for their land and the wealthy get wealthier. The quote also shows Proctor is confronting the Putnams towards blaming their misfortunes on witchcraft at the same time. The word ‘swing’ shows that hysteria is being swung around Salem and people are accusing each other for their own good. Miller explores the power of hysteria as a contagious emotion that can tear a community apart. Through the ending of the quote “bag to swing around your head”, shows how Putnam can recklessly accuse innocent people in Salem, also presenting how Putnam thinks the Salem community is at his disposal due to the influence he has in the church. This develops John Proctor as being a morally correct individual by not spreading hysteria. Following on, Proctor tells Putnam: “Vote by name in this society, not by acreage”. This shows that Proctor is demanding democracy and not who has the most land. Proctor’s democratic words show that everyone in Salem should have an equal stance because the corrupt individuals are the ones that are ‘well off’; while the morally veracious individuals such as Proctor are poorer. The word ‘acreage’ presents the avaricious nature of Salem as certain characters exploit others and aim to prosper from the suffering of others, and Miller conveys how traditional social structures are overturned by accusations through “it is the Devil’s fault that a man cannot say to you good morning without you clapping him for defamation?”. Miller’s intentional derision created by Proctor signifies Proctor’s uncertainty about the claims of witchcraft as he says it is the “devil’s fault” that he cannot say “good morning’ to Giles – which also mocks the fact that Parris and the others are using the ‘devil’ as a scapegoat for bad events that happen in Salem. Also, the use of diabolic language such as ‘devil’ in contrast to a positive greeting ‘good morning’ in the same sentence could amplify the overall illogicalness of the situation such as 1950’s America, as the hunt for communists presented illogical behavior.

In the beginning of Act two, Miller features the human need for clemency by presenting the rocky relationship between Elizabeth and Proctor. Miller sets the play in Proctor’s house-hold but it quickly gets obtureded by Mary, which impels anxiety and difficulty into the house. Proctors inflicted guilt is deepened in this part of the play, as Proctor feels conflicted due to the past affair, so he acts hesitant to Elizabeth. Proctor returns home for the day “he goes to her and kisses her. Elizabeth receives the kiss with certain disappointment he returns to the table”. The stage directions directly present their relationship as disconcerting as soon as they are introduced. Elizabeth fails to compensate for Proctor’s love for her, conveying a lack of familiarity in the relationship; which leads to an awkward standoff. The passive verb ‘receives’ shows the rigidness in their relationship, as there is no answer from Elizabeth. As a consequence, Proctor is laden with ‘certain disappointment’ which refers to the disappointment he has in her for her inability to forgive him even though he knows Elizabeth is the correct one in the room, emphasizing Proctors weight on his shoulders due to the affair, as the hysteria dominates Proctor. However, the double entrance also embodies Proctor’s personal defeat in himself for having the affair, asserting his guilt which is prejudicial to him. The fact that he kisses her and therefore feels beaten shows how Proctor yearns to be intimate with Elizabeth again and wants to rebuild his morals and marriage. This exhibits Proctor’s adherence to never give up and do the right thing presenting his core values. The intimacy that Proctor aspires for is cut off by the lack of forgiveness from Elizabeth. The stage direction ‘returns to the table’ shows how Proctor is giving her space. This declares the firm sense of forgiving he has for Elizabeth, as he knows why she is acting heartlessly towards him, further emphasizing his culpability. Miller shows us how intimacy and touch are vital for a healthy relationship because the lack of it shows their cold distance and inadequacy of love. This concept is clasped throughout this part of the play as. “Her back is turned to him. He turns and watches her, sense of their separation arises”. The stage direction shows a transparent gap between the Proctor and Elizabeth, conveying passiveness between the couple. Elizabeth’s back is ‘turned’ to him. The repetition of ‘turn’ may symbolize how the relationship has turned into a dysfunctional relationship, showing the adverse effects of a Puritan society. The stage direction ‘her back is turned to him’ genuinely expresses Elizabeth’s coldness to Proctor. This portrays a sense of disregard and an absence of intimacy. Nonetheless, Miller portrays Proctor as a caring man for his wife, as Proctor ‘watches her’ hinting to the audience that he covets the spark to the tinder to revitalize his relationship with Elizabeth. The strain and hardship inside the household are attributed to Mary. Proctor outlandishly threatens Mary, stating that “he will whip the Devil out of her]”. Proctor is outraged that Mary appeared in court and made false accusations which are corrupting the justice system. Mary as well brought back a poppet which causes further panic. Proctor is trying to stop the hysteria which establishes Proctor as a role model or an intelligent man. Later on, Miller exhibits Proctor’s behavior as extremely conflicted due to hysteria and his affair with Abigail which causes him to be aggressive and sharp-tongued and this leads to Proctor acting harshly towards Elizabeth which can further damage the relationship. Mary’s actions justified Proctor’s words as Elizabeth previously told Mary not to go to court as it will cause more agitation, which seeps under the door to the private household. Miller highlights how public events can convulse relationships and show how communities that focus primarily on social order leaves no room for privacy.

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In the beginning of Act three, Miller presents Proctor’s longing will to protect the pure characters in Salem exhibiting his father figure, and tries to cease corruption in the court. Miller indicates that hope fluctuates in court as the narrow-minded characters of Salem try to bring down Proctor’s name. Throughout the court scene, Parris is constantly trying to induce and provoke Proctor; this can be seen in the stage directions: “Pressing Parris away from her with a gentle but firm motion of protectiveness, she would speak with the Deputy Governor”. Miller presents Proctor as a protective figure and a logical man as he pushes Parris away from Mary and Elizabeth, this highlights that Proctor is protecting the girls from evil. Miller depicts the destructive power of petty personal dislike on the harmony of a community. Further out into the play, Proctor is furious with the justice system and the small-minded characters in the court he states: “There might also be a dragon with five legs in my house, but no one has ever seen it”. Miller indicates Proctor as a prudent, Proctor’s logical thinking reassesses the situation and compares the witchcraft to an imaginary ‘dragon’ in his house. This highlights how the justice system is a foolery, which is identical to the red scare in 1950’s America due to the unsound actions. The verb ‘might’ demonstrates how uncertain the allegations are in Salem and furthermore, Miller highlights that fear and suspicion can lead people to lose sight of what is right and just. Proctor’s fatal flaw is his honesty and integrity. This becomes evident in “A man may think God sleeps, but God sees everything, I know it now. I beg you, sir, I beg you – see her for what she is…She thinks to dance with me on my wife’s grave! And well she might, for I thought of her softly. God help me, I lusted and there is a promise in such sweat. But it is a whore’s vengeance…”. In court, a fractured Proctor talks to Danforth hoping to prove, Mary’s testimony, that Abigail is causing hysteria and condemning the innocent in court which gives Abigail authority. As Abigail tries to pray to God to help her, Miller presents Proctor as a selfless individual because he confesses about the affair with Abigail. Proctor displeasingly explains that Abigail is after his wife’s life due to the affair. Miller reveals Proctor’s longing need is to protect Elizabeth which develops Proctor as a sacrificial and affectionate character. The repetition of ‘god’ shows that no one, according to the bible can undermine and use God to their advantage, as God will always be the honorable one. Ultimately, Miller condemns the theocratic society that exists in Salem, and reminds the audience of the dangers of instilling too much power into a few men; as they can only use corruption as an aid and condemn people using God’s name.

At the beginning of act four, Miller conveys how Proctor cares for his morals and reputation. Miller presents the idea that Proctor would rather die with a favorable reputation, this will ultimately give peace to Proctor rather than lying, living and be disgraced in the Salem community. This notion is seen through “I have given you my soul; leave me my name!”. Miller highlights Proctor’s contrary situation, Proctor’s emphasis of his words presents that the only asset he has is his name, Proctor would rather succumb than to eradicate his reputation and live. Miller uses the noun ‘soul’ to present how Proctor’s soul has been given away, but the soul is seen as immortal. This concept can present the illogical frenzy in the court. Proctor sticks to his morals and wants closure but the court breeds more irrationality. Miller presents how hysteria and illogical thoughts can tear a community apart, just like 1950’s America. Proctor’s integrity and name is his only asset. If he loses it, he would live, feeling disgraced for the rest of his life. Proctor is defensive and is defiant in protecting his name. Miller presents how Proctor emphasizes his name to show how important it is to preserve it. Miller exhibits Proctor’s integrity, highlighting the longing need to be an honest man after his affair with Abigail. Miller shows how past mistakes can develop a character’s values and views for the best. The contrast of Proctor’s integrity between other characters in Salem is prominent, this is exhibited when Proctor states: “He cannot mount the gibbet like a saint. It is fraud”. The noun ‘fraud’ exemplifies Proctor’s willingness to stick to his morals and views himself as an adulterous man that can never be forgiven, Miller shows how Proctor is a distinctive character due to being harsh on himself, yet honest, unlike other characters that lie and condemn the innocent to maintain their reputation in Salem. In the ending of act four, Miller displays Proctor’s epiphany which is an eye-opener and an accomplishment to himself. Proctor is gratified due to not giving into the doing of others in Salem and this can be seen when he states: “You have made your magic now, for now, I do think that I see some shred of goodness in John Proctor”. Miller uses the noun ‘magic’ to condemn the Salem community for the damage they have caused: denouncing the innocent and refusing to stop until the innocent are forced to admit. The noun ‘goodness’ presents how Proctor is content with his decision, which puts him at peace. Miller presents this upbeat moment as a gift, displaying hope and that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Miller displays the tone of Proctor as hopeful, Proctor feels like he has regained his energy because he has been stronger and more rational than his fellow corrupted townspeople. Miller presents this quote as a breather for the audience and Proctor himself. Proctor is uptight with his morals which shows that he is opposed to the evil ways of Salem as well. Miller exhibits that Proctor would rather die with fulfilment than to live in the ways of the fellow Salem community.

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Arthur Miller’s Vision of John Proctor’ Personality in his Novel ‘The Crucible’. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 28, 2023, from
“Arthur Miller’s Vision of John Proctor’ Personality in his Novel ‘The Crucible’.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022,
Arthur Miller’s Vision of John Proctor’ Personality in his Novel ‘The Crucible’. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 28 Mar. 2023].
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