John Proctor Eulogy

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Table of contents

  1. Character
  2. Actions
  3. Analysis
  4. Impact
  5. Conclusion

Proctor’s last act is a noble and honorable way to die. He chooses to die not only for himself and his wife, but also for those who stand wrongly accused. Proctor decides to die with the honest people of Salem instead of selling those people out and dishonoring their memory and deaths by falsely admitting to the crime of witchcraft. By refusing to confess, John gives up his life with his wife, children, and unborn child, standing by the ideal of honesty and preserving his honor. In addition, Proctor is able to salvage parts of his wife and children's reputations with his death. By doing this, he ensures his death will not be in vain and his children will be able to be to live honorable and productive lives in Salem after he is gone. Proctor is able to let go of his pride and reclaim his honor in death, but also in his last moments, providing a future life for his descendants and others in Salem.

Character

John’s character develops throughout the story as he finally comes to terms with his wrong actions with Abigail and, using his last act on earth, dies to save his family’s reputation, honor, and way of life in the town. At the very end of the play, Elizabeth tells Hale that she will not try to convince John to confess because he has his peace. This is significant as it shows recognition in Elizabeth that John has made peace with the idea that he is a good man who made a bad decision. John’s decision demonstrates that in order to earn God’s forgiveness, one must first have their own. Arthur Miller states though Elizabeth that John has forgives himself and has found his pure soul once again. John finds his purity of character and soul at the end of the play, lending his death to be more honorable than prideful as he chooses to die pure of lies rather than to live one.

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Actions

John’s actions as he tries to bring an end to the trials shows his growth and movement towards an honorable death. In a last attempt to discredit Abigail, John even confesses to adultery, knowing that this will also discredit him. Proctor makes the point that no man would intentionally soil his good name in the village. The idea that Proctor is a good name is further emphasized by Parris later on as he tries to convince Danforth to postpone the hangings. By confessing his sins, John convinces Hale, the expert on witchcraft, of his innocence leading to Hale’s protests of his condemnation. In this way, John convinces the people that he is innocent, as it is inconceivable in a Puritan society for one to purposely soil their good name.

Rebecca Nurse pleads with John not to allow his signed confession to be nailed to the church door because a false confession is no confession at all. While John debates handing over the signed confession, he eventually chooses to instead rip of the paper, refusing to confess to witchcraft, and condemning himself to hang. By ripping the paper, he stands with Rebecca Nurse, another falsely accused witch, and figuratively stands with God. The ripping of the paper also signifies the forgiveness of John’s sins as he is stepping away from another lie, and living his last moments of truth. When John refuses to sign hand the signed paper over to Danforth he is protecting the lives of his wife, Elizabeth, and his children by preserving the goodness of the name Proctor in the village of Salem. By not signing the paper John is holding on to not only his honor, but his relationship with God and his children. This demonstrates actions that show John’s strong moral character and character development.

John also confesses to conspiring with the Devil in order to at first save himself, but eventually decides to put God first and refuse to admit to witchcraft. This action shows strong moral character and self-actualization as John is able to put aside his own needs for the needs of others. Parris and Danforth do not understand why he does this, Elizabeth is even unsure, willing to even take his sins upon herself if he will confess, however, Rebecca Nurse is able to recognize John’s reasoning. When he refuses, John is choosing to not save his life in order to save the lives of his family and, unknowingly, the lives of several others who were accused. While it is true that Elizabeth would have survived with the children regardless, John grants them and even bigger gift, quality of life. With his confession, the name Proctor would have been ruined and his family would have been ridiculed, outsiders, for the rest of their lives. John instead chooses to rip up his confession and hang for his family, in the end showing an altruistic quality that could be overlooked otherwise.

Analysis

Character is defined as the combination of a variety of components that make up an individual’s moral and ethical beliefs and actions. John’s actions demonstrate strong moral character towards the end of the book as he owns his mistakes, even dying for his beliefs. When John refuses to allow his signature to be posted on the church door, instead choosing to rip the paper. The ripping of the paper signifies the end of John choosing to consign himself to lies, the end of his prideful endeavors, and the beginning of the reinstatement of his honor. Notably, John’s honor has been questionable, the very end of the story when he chooses to die instead of lie. He is previously unable to “remember” the sign of adultery, when he is asked to list the Ten Commandments. However, he is even able to confess to that sin when he realizes what is at stake if he does not. At this point in the story John realizes that his pride is no longer the most important thing to him and is able to put it aside and achieve honor. Strong moral character is not living perfectly, it is acknowledging mistakes, putting aside one’s own pride for betterment of society and those around you.

John’s confession to witchcraft would have been a lie, however, he did consult with the Devil. By committing adultery, he had chosen to do the Devil’s bidding, which he confessed to (Miller 1953). It is often believed that John’s entire confession is a lie, however, there is enough truth that it could be seen as John confessing his sins not only to himself but to God. With his confession, although originally intended to save his life, John bears his soul to not only God but also himself, in a sense releasing his pride and asking for forgiveness. Rebecca Nurse is used by Miller in this particular scene to represent God’s forgiveness and John’s reclamation of honor. As John refuses to hand over the signed confession, that he is practicing witchcraft, and he condemns himself to hang, Rebecca quietly reminds him that Danforth will not pass the final judgement on his soul. This symbolizes that God shall be the final judge and John’s decision to die in honor will not go unnoticed. In essence, this grants John not only the peace he needs but also the assurance that he did the right thing.

Impact

The death of John Proctor leaves Danforth and Parris stunned, and, perhaps, many readers surprised. However, throughout the story John has shown considerable growth and his journey towards regaining honor by giving up pride. By looking back at the story, his struggle with his ego is apparent when Elizabeth is known to be saved but John’s friends still faced the threat of the rope. If he had chosen pride, he would have accepted the fact that Elizabeth was saved and moved on. However, he instead chooses to confess his sins with Abigail in an attempt to save his friends in the community, marking his first step towards honor. While John takes several other steps before he achieves honor in his last moments, this first step has the greatest impact on those around him. By not giving up on his friends, John further establishes his good name with the people of Salem, which with John’s refusal of confession, will help to bring an end to the trials all together. Due to John dying an honorable death, he is able to help bring the trials to an end, all the while ensuring a high quality of life for his wife and future descendants in Salem.

Conclusion

John is able to let go of pride and instead die in honor as he gives up his life in one last altruistic act to help others. His actions and character development throughout the story track his steps towards honor and how it is finally achieved, impacting those around him. The death of John Proctor will lend itself towards ending the Salem Witch Trials, but more importantly remain an upstanding example of how one must let go of pride in order to achieve honor.

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John Proctor Eulogy. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 20, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/honorable-death-of-john-proctor/
“John Proctor Eulogy.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/honorable-death-of-john-proctor/
John Proctor Eulogy. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/honorable-death-of-john-proctor/> [Accessed 20 Jun. 2024].
John Proctor Eulogy [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 01 [cited 2024 Jun 20]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/honorable-death-of-john-proctor/
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