“Evolution” is a word that means the gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form. When someone “evolves,” you can no longer go back to the person you once were, resulting in you diving deeper into your personal growth. In The Crucible by Arthur Miller, John Proctor is portrayed as the male protagonist. He is mainly at the heart of all the problems going on in a town called Salem. In fact, he gets involved in the Salem Witch Trials when his wife, Goody Proctor, is accused of witchcraft. This leads to a major shift in his personality: from a regular citizen and a lecher to a tragic hero, a person who has achieved a high sense of morality. Throughout the course of the story, John Proctor undergoes a major transformation and changes his character as he struggles to figure out what he really wants in life.
Despite the fact that the play introduces John Proctor as a sinful lecher, he is already attempting to change as an individual. In Act I, the play introduces John Proctor as a man who commits adultery with sixteen-year-old Abigail Williams, a girl living in Salem who is young enough to be his daughter. He displays his guilt about having an affair with Abigail, and he tries to convince himself that he is a sinful man who had done wrong. Therefore, to start off on the right foot, he must break all ties and connections with Abigail. When she mentions to Proctor about the relationship they once had, he responds with, “No, no Abby. That’s done with. Abby, you’ll put it out of mind. I’ll not be comin’ for you more” (176). When Abigail tries to persuade him to come back to her, he tells himself that this is the best way to make things right. Even if he didn’t want to end this so-called relationship they had, deep down he knew that this was the right decision if he wanted to save his relationship with his wife. Despite his response, however, Abigail doesn’t lose hope yet and still urges him to return to her, reminding him of all the good times they had, and the lust he felt for her. He answers by saying, “I may think softly of you time to time. But I’ll cut off my hand before I’ll ever reach for you again. Wipe it out of mind. We never touched, Abby” (177). Proctor saying to Abigail that they never touched was his way of trying to get through to her that their relationship has to end there. This is also almost a way of reminding and telling himself to move on. When he tells her to “wipe it out of mind,” he is also telling himself that, so that he provides closure to the relationship that he and Abigail once had. At the beginning of the play, he is introduced as someone who would cheat on his wife and not have a problem with doing so. Now, he has begun to realize that his actions contained many flaws, and breaking ties with Abigail would be the first step towards winning his wife back, as well as making up for his sin.
After his little conversation with Abigail, John Proctor begins to display multiple changes in his personality and moral beliefs. Ever since the affair between John Proctor and Abigail Williams, Elizabeth Proctor loses all trust in him and comes off as cold and unloving, which leads to a straining relationship surrounded by lies and suspicion. John wants to fix his mistakes, but the only way to do so is to create more lies so that she is happier. In Act II, John tastes the stew behind Elizabeth’s back, is unsatisfied with the seasoning, and adds more salt. And when he eats it in front of Elizabeth, John reminds her, “I mean to please you, Elizabeth” and her weak response is, “I know it, John” (192). This shows how much Proctor wants to make his wife happy, but the only way he knows how is to lie to her so that she hears what she wants to hear. He wants to show her that she can trust him, but she can’t if all he does is lie to her, causing Elizabeth to come across as a woman who is always suspicious of Proctor’s actions. He fears that if he tells the truth, she may not understand his motives, which shows that he has communication problems with his own wife. However, towards the end of the play, he has learned that the only way to be honest with people is, to be honest with himself. When he is with Abigail at the court, he confesses to Danforth, “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, and you must see it; I set myself entirely in your hands” (221). This is Proctor’s first act of honesty since his affair with Abigail. Because of his actions, Elizabeth is eventually able to trust John again, and thus they are able to be more accepting and loving toward one another. John has finally succeeded in displaying his love for Elizabeth, and the only way he could do that was to be more honest with each other. He has developed from a secretive man to a trustful, loyal husband.
Lastly, John Proctor achieves a sense of morality by the end of the play. He didn’t know what was right from wrong, resulting in him having an affair with a sixteen-year-old girl and, therefore, has committed adultery. This moral problem continues throughout the course of the play and is the primary moral quandary until his death. Before, he seemed to have no regrets for his sins, since the narrator of the play states, “He is a sinner, a sinner not only against the moral fashion of time but against his own vision of decent conduct. [He] had no ritual for the washing away of sins” (175-176). Clearly, he is shown to not want to fix his mistakes in the past and move on pretending it never happened. Because of this, John would have to create lies to make up for other lies, resulting in him becoming a very suspicious man with no moral values. However, he attains a sense of morality when he is forced to make a tough decision at the end of the play: he had to decide between dying with honor or living with shame. He chooses to give up his life, and his reasoning is, “Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies!” (240). Proctor has chosen to die for the truth, for his reputation, and for those he cares about. He can finally see some good in himself and forgives himself for his weakness. John Proctor proves to everyone that he is a man true to himself, and he will not sacrifice his family name because he believes that you are nobody without a name.
At last, John Proctor came out as a changed man. He shows self-improvement, honesty, and wisdom. He goes from being a selfish man to a hero and has learned from many experiences that make him a better man. He dies with honor and becomes a better person who finds a sense of righteousness in himself.