John Proctor's Moral Ambiguity In The Crucible

Good Essays
Be careful--the result of being an individual in a uniform society could possibly lead to death. In The Crucible, Arthur Miller relates the Salem witchcraft trials to the modern acts of McCarthyism being practiced. He uses specific events and characters in the play to describe what occurs in both situations. One of the characters Miller uses to describe his ideas is John Proctor. Miller uses Proctor's moral ambiguity to express his views of how individualism is nearly impossible in such corrupt, tyrant-like societies.

One reason Miller writes the play is to magnify the foolish actions of modern day society and how it fails to learn from history's mistakes--in this case, how people are found suspicious because of their individualism. The play
…show more content…
Proctor is known as the most individualistic character of the play for many reasons, including his committing and admitting to adultery, his false confession to witchcraft, his retraction of the confession, and his futile efforts to save others (although they probably look down on him because of the now well-known affair). He has a few reasons for considering a false confession to witchcraft; his life and his feelings of not being holy enough to die as a martyr. When he says: "I cannot mount the gibbet like a saint. It is a fraud. ... I am no good man ...," Proctor shows that he felt he was not a good enough man to die as a martyr and be proclaimed as one after his death (236). Proctor's indecisive morals make him individualistic and, therefore, the tyrant-like, Puritan society convicts and kills the poor man. If he did admit to witchcraft, the society probably will not accept him for his moral ambiguity, yet he is not sure if he will be accepted in death by God, either. Even Proctor cannot figure out how he stands morally after all of these events take

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Good Essays

    John Proctor is an honest, hardworking, good man except for his one flaw that became a downfall for him and other accused “witches” living in Salem. His lust for Abigail that led to an affair created jealousy towards his wife Elizabeth, and resulted in Abigail spreading lies and causing witch hysteria to arise. After the trials began, John realized that he could out Abigail and make everyone see her for what she was (a liar) and put an end to many innocent deaths by confessing to his adultery and proving Abigail was only extracting revenge on his wife Elizabeth Proctor. He tried to save his reputation through a testimony of Mary Warren without revealing his crucial information but it failed. When this happened he publicly proclaimed his guilt and confessed, calling Abigail Williams a whore, but his admission was too late and could not stop everything that Abigail had already set in motion. John’s penance only resulted in his arrest and conviction of a witch, and he feels culpable for allowing Abigail and her friends to take it as far as they did. In his final act, John Proctor still wants to save his name, but for personal and religious reasons, rather than pride and fear of the public's opinion. John was given the chance to concede and live, but he declined, which was a true private and religious stand. If he did attest it would dishonor those condemned that stood beside him, who were not afraid to die for the truth. A false admission would also dishonor him and his soul. By refusing to confess, Proctor proclaims that such integrity would bring him into heaven, and he goes to the gallows with his fellow prisoners, redeemed for his earlier…

    • 292 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    In the play the crucible, Arthur miller uses the character of John Proctor who, residing in hysteria-shaken Puritan Salem, rises beyond the hysteria and proves himself a true hero through his heroic virtues, challenging of authority and power, self-sacrifice and self-realisation. Proctor is the only individual willing to question the puritan belief system. He believes that no man should have control over the life of another. Only God has the power to judge and condemn. Therefore, choosing the more tragic outcome by not allowing himself to lose his individuality and sense of self-conflict of ethics between what is right from wrong as well as sheer lack of common sense. He also sacrifices his life and reputation for what he believes is right, his integrity and his wife.…

    • 884 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    “I say- I say God is dead” he yelled as he had just given up. John Proctor was a farmer, a father to 3 boys and a husband to Elizabeth. He is also a cheater though. He claims to be a good Christian but in that time to be a good Christian one of your qualifications had to be to go to church every Sunday which he didn’t do. He was on the outskirts of Salem, so it was hard to get there. He also didn’t have any motivation to hear about God’s love when the minister, Parris, only preached about hell. John Proctor has one through many changes, but I think two are more important than the rest.…

    • 523 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    A tragic hero is defined as “a literary character who makes an error of judgment or has a fatal flaw that, combined with fate and external forces, brings on a tragedy” (Dictionary.com). This identity holds true for John Proctor. He is a valued and respectful man who has made a misjudgment while in a dark place. Sometimes a hero can make a mistake that leads to his or her downfall. Many tragic heroes have a flaw that leads to their tragedy and John Proctor’s gets the best of him. In Arthur Miller’s play The Crucibles John Proctor qualifies as a tragic hero because he is vulnerable, proud, and brave throughout his downfall.…

    • 1042 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    To characterise a man as “good” or “bad” is undoubtedly a near impossible task. There are few men (or women) in this world that can honestly be defined as purely one or the other. Most cannot be categorised as “righteous” or “depraved”, simply because there is no such thing as a one-sided personality. Each person has multiple faces, multiple identities. Such is the case of John Proctor. Proctor is one of the key characters in Arthur Miller’s satirical play “The Crucible”. Set in 1692, the play is based on the true story of the Salem witch-hunt, described by Miller as “one of the strangest and most awful chapters in human history”. Upon his first appearance, John Proctor is presented as a rational, honest man; however, it soon becomes apparent that great guilt lies beneath his virtuous front. The consequences of his past mistakes lead him (and his wife) to be accused of witchcraft. Faced with the decision to either confess or hang for his “crimes”, Proctor explains to his wife that he feels that dying for moral principle would be nothing but pretence for him, that a sinner has no right to die as would a saint: “I am no good man”. Is John Proctor a good man? What is a good man if not one that is prepared to die for a just cause? Or do his sins rule out this final act of virtue?…

    • 1273 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Allegory In The Crucible

    • 843 Words
    • 4 Pages

    Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is a very wise piece that perfectly explains the story of two time periods. Although Miller literally wrote about the Salem witch trials, his purpose was to describe the McCarthy trials which teaches many ideas about human life both generally and regarding politics. The two time periods were more than two and a half centuries apart, yet they had many factors that overlapped. Miller explains the McCarthy trials through The Crucible by teaching people’s fears, faults, and politics, making the text both a metaphor to the trials and an allegory.…

    • 843 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    The Crucible, written by Arthur Miller, is a play that takes place during a time period of the witch trials. The entire community is in pandemonium and certain characters are also fighting internal conflicts. Miller uses three characters that shows this internal battle : Abigail Williams, John Proctor who must weigh the importance of his family against his reputation and the Putnams.…

    • 538 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Better Essays

    “And being what she is, a lump of vanity, sir- . . . 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 promise in such sweat. But it is a whore’s vengeance, and you must see it:” (Miller 102). The Crucible by Arthur Miller shows greed and vengeance of the Salem townspeople in 1692. Miller is trying to show the government what they are doing with the communism trials and why they are so unfair. The witch trials closely mimic the communist trials in that the root of it was selfishness and greediness. Most of these characters actually lived and some of these events actually happened. Arthur Miller wrote this play to show the people what was going on was wrong. Protagonist, John Proctor, antagonist, Abigail Williams, Reverend Parris, Thomas Putnam and many others hold grudges, are immature, and selfish because of their long-term burning desire for revenge. Events happening in their life now are adding fuel to the fire.…

    • 968 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Better Essays
  • Good Essays

    Encountering Conflict

    • 901 Words
    • 4 Pages

    Conflict can bring out the best and worst qualities in individuals, and also in communities. Arthur Miller explores this in his play The Crucible. When witchcraft is declared in Salem, the reactions of the members of this strictly Puritan society differ greatly. Some see the events that take place as a chance for opportunism, a way to garner personal support, an opportunity to play out personal vengeance and also an occasion to strut one’s ability and knowledge. These characters, just as Miller intends, alienate the audience because of their self-interest and quickness to allow fear to overwhelm any genuine desire to find out the truth. The audience grieves for the suffering of the truly good characters – Rebecca Nurse, Giles Corey and Elizabeth Proctor. John Proctor, the flawed hero of the play, may have succumbed to the temptations of the flesh with Abigail Williams, but he redeems himself in the end, realizing that saving himself through lying will not resolve the conflict overwhelming his small town of Salem. He goes to his death knowing that there is ‘some shred of goodness in John Proctor’.…

    • 901 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Belonging the Crucible

    • 1363 Words
    • 6 Pages

    Arthur Miller’s play ‘The Crucible’ was composed in the context of McCarthyism, using the subject matter of the Salem witch hunts to make comments about the communist witch hunts that occurred in the 1950s in America. ‘The Crucible’ explores the destruction of the Salem community caused by mass hysteria. The hysteria was ignited by a group of young girls who were powerless individually, yet as a group, had the power to control the court. This resulted with the death of 19 people including John Proctor and several other highly respected members of Salem.…

    • 1363 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    Individual moral integrity and the lack thereof are illustrated by Arthur Miller in his play, The Crucible. The fear of witchcraft engulfs the Puritanical society thus creating a mob rule. The fate of the town depends upon the morals of its people. John Proctor and Reverend Hale are key players in condemning the Witch Trials; ruling the mob are Abigail, Judge Danforth, and their followers. Even though the trials were intended to end when Salem was cleansed of the alleged witchcraft, it remained the responsibility of the individual to ensure that the majority did not become completely overthrown by mass hysteria.…

    • 828 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Kdkdkdkkd

    • 321 Words
    • 2 Pages

    Arthur Miller writes about the tragic results of human failings in his play, The Crucible. He presents characters from the past and infuses them with renewed vitality and color. Miller demonstrates the horrifying results of succumbing to personal motives and flaws as he writes the painful story of the Salem witch trials. Not only do the trials stem from human failings but also from neglect of moral and religious considerations of that time. Characters begin to overlook Puritan values of thrift and hope for salvation. Focusing on the flawed characters, they begin to exhibit land lust, envy of the miserable and self-preservation.…

    • 321 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Arthur Millers ‘The Crucible’ is an extended metaphor representing the parallels between the Salem witch-hunts and accusations of communism during the McCarthyism era. Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible in response to the unwarranted persecution of many Americans, who were accused of communist ties or associating with Communist governments. Two of the themes presented throughout The Crucible are Witchcraft and Personal Integrity.…

    • 1427 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    In the play, The Crucible there were many characters who stayed the same throughout the entire story, and there were others who changed. One of the characters who changed over the course of the play was John Proctor. He was an upstanding citizen in the community with one fatal flaw, his shame in sleeping with his servant, Abigail Williams. Over the course of the play, Proctor fights his guilt over what he did and faces whether or not to tell the court as he watches Abigail tear the lives of the people in the community apart. In the beginning of the play, Proctor's only goal in life was to keep his good name in the society, but he changed in an effort to save the lives of others in court. He did so when he finally told of his adultery with Abigail even though by the time he did, it was too late. While his plan to save the other people who were being tried for witchcraft had failed, he succeeded in freeing his own guilt with his confession. From that point on in the story, John Proctor was a heroic figure instead of a cowardly one like he used to be.…

    • 504 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    It is appalling how people die for no cause. This happens in the play The Crucible by Arthur Miller in which The Salem witch trials were depicted. In Salem, 1692, many people with good reputations are sentenced to death because of supernatural "evidence." The only way to escape death was to admit that they were witches. The intolerance, fear, and reputation of the society affect the choices characters made. This shows how society can be blamed for the decisions people make.…

    • 843 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays