The Crucible

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Peter Beagle once wrote that “Great heroes need great sorrows and burdens, or half their greatness goes unnoticed. It is all part of the fairy tale.” This quote by Beagle describes one of the qualities of a hero, and it also describes the character John Proctor in The Crucible by Arthur Miller. Joseph Campbell’s paradigm of a hero is also similar to what Beagle said, in that the classical hero needs some sort of tribulation. This is only one part of the paradigm that describes Proctor though. According to Campbell’s paradigm, John Proctor can be seen as a hero in the classical mode.

The first part of the paradigm that shows how Proctor is a hero would be the trials and tribulations that a hero has to face. There are many scenes in The Crucible that show this. In Act II, John is approached by his wife Elizabeth about why he took so long to get back. Proctor once had an affair with Abigail, the antagonist of the book. Elizabeth knows this, and she questions if he went to see her. This is essentially John’s first trial. He has to either choose between lying in order to make Elizabeth not worried, or tell the truth. “ELIZABETH: What keeps you so late? It’s almost dark. Proctor: I were planting far out to the forest edge.”(52) “JOHN: She told it to me in a room alone—I have no proof for it. ELIZABETH: You were alone with her? Why, then, it is not as you told me.” (57) In John’s first trial, he fails to tell the truth, and he places the unnecessary burden of his wife’s distrust. Another example of a trial that John goes through would be the actual trial of the wives of him and his friends. In this trial, John has to prove the innocence of the wives and prove that the girls are frauds, accusing innocent people for practicing witchcraft. “PROCTOR: Will you read this first, sir? It’s a sort of testament. The people signing it declare their good opinion of Rebecca and my wife, and Martha Corey.” (97) “This is Mary Warren’s deposition . . . Ay, sir. She swears now...
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