In the play The Crucible, the tragic hero John Proctor, is caught between his flaws that stop him from helping his community and that the ones that lead him to his down fall. Throughout the play, John Proctor has two choices, he can either save his life by tarnishing his name, or he can choose to die while preserving his integrity. He becomes the tragic hero by trying to help his community after a group of teenage girls start to accuse community members of witchcraft. By trying to do so, he ends up tarnishing his name after admitting to having an affair with the leader of the group, Abigail Williams. The main reason as to why he is the tragic hero is because although he was trying to do the right thing in order to save those accused of witchcraft, he refused to sacrifice his reputation, which he felt was the only thing he had left. In order to save everyone, he would have had to sign a written confession stating that he had in fact performed witchcraft, and by doing so, this would have most definitely destroyed his name in the town. He had too much pride in him to sign something that wasn’t true, and by doing so; it therefore lead to his arrest and eventually his death.
John Proctor was a well-respected, highly influential man in society. He was considered to be part of the high-class civilians in Salem, Massachusetts. One part of the play where we see that John is highly influential is when Betty Parris has fallen into a coma and the doctors can not tell what is wrong with her. Her father, Reverend Parris says that no one is to enter the room ,but then allows the Putnam’s, whose daughter was also sick and John Proctor in the room. Also, during the 17th century your wealth and class in society was based upon how much land you owned, and since John Proctor owned a lot of land, this also gave him reasons to be considered Nicholas 2
one of Salem’s high-class members of society. During the time where Betty has fallen ill, disorder invades Salem. (C.J Partridge, An Atmosphere of Dread in The Crucible)
The reason John Proctor is the tragic hero is because throughout the play you see that he in fact makes some mistakes. These mistakes in the end, ultimately cause him to lose his life. “What appears in the beginning as Proctor’s private sin actually sets the whole community in commotion… Proctor’s private act of sin leads to social turmoil” (Bhatia, Santosh). A major mistake that he makes is that he allowed his pride to cloud his better judgment, therefore causing him to make mistakes such as having the affair with Abigail, because his wife, Elizabeth was sick. His pride also won’t allow him to take responsibility for his actions due to the fact that he becomes angry with Elizabeth because she constantly judges him for the affair. Another mistake he makes is not going to Reverend Hale and telling him what Abigail had told him in private. Elizabeth then proceeds to say, “John, if it were not Abigail that you must go to hurt, would you falter now? I think not.” (Act 1, Scene 1) What Elizabeth is trying to tell him is if he really didn’t have any feelings towards Abigail anymore why did it take him so long to go and confess to what she had told him. John Proctor had all the power to stop making these decisions instead he chose to continue. He had the freedom to make his own choices but failed to make the correct ones. He chose to have the affair with Abigail, he chose not to tell on the girls, and how they lied about all the witchcraft that was going on in Salem, and in the very end he chose to rip up his confession that would had saved his life.
Bad decisions are promises made by the tragic hero without thinking; they are promises that he can’t keep. He had made a promise to Abigail, once he had slept with her. "John - grant me this. You have a faulty understanding of young girls. There is a promise made in any bed..." Nicholas 3
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