John Proctor's Personality Transformation

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Chaos breaks out in the town and rumors of witchery spread. Teenage girls let out savage screams and shake uncontrollably. Everyone is panicking and blaming one another. In ‘The Crucible’, a historical fiction play written by Arthur Miller, set in 1693 Salem, Massachusetts, John Proctor, a respected farmer, tries to get the truth out and end the witchcraft madness. Arthur Miller wrote the play about the Salem Witch Trials, which started when a group of young girls were accused of being possessed by the devil and are said to be affected by witchcraft. They start accusing several women in the town of witchcraft. Miller depicts John Proctor as a dynamic character over the course of the play by showing how Proctor changes as a person who only cared about his reputation and public appearances, to someone who is concerned about his inner self and integrity.

John Proctor was a very well respected and strong person in his community. His good name and reputation are very important to him, but that starts to change throughout the play. At the beginning of the play, the protagonist, John Proctor, had an affair with a teenage girl named Abigail Williams, while his wife was ill. John later does not want anything more to do with her, and wants Abigail to tell the truth so the innocent people that were accused don’t get hurt. However, she doesn’t care about what’s right or wrong, and is only interested in winning Proctor back. John begins to realize what Abigail is doing after many people, including his wife, are accused and tries to put an end to the trials. Even though he is ashamed of himself, guilt takes over him and so he tells his wife, Elizabeth, about the affair with Abigail. Proctor tries to please Elizabeth and begs for her forgiveness saying that “he cannot speak without being doubted, and judged for lies, as thou he comes into a court when he comes into the house” (Miller 54-55; Act 2). He is sorry for what he has done and shows how much he wants to please Elizabeth. In Act 3, Proctor shows that he is willing to prove how sorry he was by admitting his affair with Abigail to Hawthorne. He was afraid to admit to having an affair with Abigail at first because he feared it would hurt his reputation in society.

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John realizes that by confessing, he has an opportunity to start anew in his marriage and show how much he truly cares about his wife. During the accusations of witchcraft going around, Abigail found the perfect opportunity to get revenge on Elizabeth. Abigail firmly believes that Elizabeth was the reason why her affair with Proctor ended. She uses this opportunity to accuse Elizabeth of witchcraft, so she could have Proctor to herself. Upset when knowing that Elizabeth has nothing to do with the devil and would be unfairly accused, Proctor tries everything he can do to defend her. He tried to get Mary to reveal the truth about the puppet and the needle, but he realizes that her testimony can’t save his wife. So, he decides to confess his adultery, although it could ruin his reputation. This shows how much he loves and cares for Elizabeth. He says to Judge Danforth and the court to get revenge on Abigail: “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” (Miller 110; Act 3). John Proctor has changed since the beginning of the play and decides to give up his own name and image, to save his wife from getting hanged and to prove the court wrong.

At the end of the play, Proctor's desire to keep his integrity led him to accept his death sentence without signing his name to the false confession, when he could’ve lied to save his life. John asks his wife to forgive him for what he has done, but she says that her forgiveness wouldn’t matter “if he’ll not forgive himself” (Miller 136; Act 4). She confesses that she feels guilty for her coldness towards him in their marriage, and she trusts that Proctor has found the goodness in him. In order to live, he is forced to lie and is asked to name other witches, but he refuses to accuse innocent Christians. Judge Danforth forces him to sign the confession and when Proctor finds out that it will be nailed to the church door, he thinks about how he can teach his sons to be men if he “sold his friends” (Miller 143; Act 4). Therefore, he tears up his confession and cries to Judge Danforth, “How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!” (Miller 143; Act 4). By refusing to give up his name and choosing to die in order to protect those around him, he redeems himself for his faults and dies with honor and integrity.

In conclusion, John Proctor’s transformation over the course of the play plays an important role in our understanding of Miller’s message about the Witch Trials in Salem. Miller expresses Proctor’s changes from only caring about his good name to understanding who he really is and protecting his integrity. At the beginning of the play, we learn about his affair with Abigail Williams, which was one of the main issues that caused the hysteria. Abigail accuses Elizabeth of witchcraft and John realizes that he must confess his affair with Abigail to save his wife, although it could ruin his reputation. At the end of the play, he refuses to confess to witchcraft and accuse his innocent friends in order to protect his integrity. This shows how he has changed significantly and no longer cares about what the people of the town think of him, but what he thinks of himself. The depiction of John Proctor as dynamic in ‘The Crucible’, revealed much about the plot and furthered our understanding of it.

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John Proctor’s Personality Transformation. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 13, 2024, from
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