Character Analysis of John Proctor
During the mid 1950’s, Senator Joe McCarthy led a campaign to expose alleged Communists in the State Department. Many called it a witch-hunt. In Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, the small town of Salem is engulfed in hysteria due to the accusations of children that many of the townspeople partook in witchcraft. Among the accused is John Proctor, a strong, steadfast farmer. Proctor is the tragic hero of the story. Even though he tries to become a hero but ends up being one of the accused. Proctor tries to remain a tragic hero through his efforts to save his wife from being hung, trying to prove the children as frauds, and not confessing to practicing witchcraft once he was accused.
Proctor is a tragic hero in his efforts to save his wife. Proctor’s first display of trying to save his wife is shown when the Court officials come to take Elizabeth away. Proctor is so infuriated by this assault on his house that he rips the warrant and tells them to leave rather forcefully saying, “Damn the Deputy Governor! Out of my house!”(77), demonstrating his intense love for his wife. Proctor shows signs of being a tragic hero when he attempts to go into court to save his wife and prove the girls liars. However, he ends up being accused himself. Mary Warren is in court testifying when she suddenly breaks down ” hysterically, pointing at Proctor, fearful of him: My name, he want my name. I’ll murder you,’ he says, if my wife hands! We must go and over throw the court,’ he says”… ” Proctor wake me every night, his eyes were like coals and his fingers claw my neck and I sign, I sign”(119). Thus John Proctor fails in trying to rescue his wife from the clutches of the false accusers, instead he falls pray to them.
Proctor establishes that the children are lying in court with respect to their accusations of the townspeople. Proctor first learns of this through his household servant, Mary Warren who is one of the accusers. Proctor deducts from the events that Mary Warren and Abigail, the lead conspirator, are in cahoots in trying to kill Proctor’s wife by accusing her of witchcraft. They come up with the idea of what is basically a voodoo doll that Mary Warren constructs in court and gives to Elizabeth. When Marry Warren is summoned to the room where all the commotion is and is asked if she has any knowledge of the doll and conjuring she says “Conjures me? Why, no, sir, I am entirely myself, I think. Let you ask Susanna Walcottshe saw me sewin’ it in court. Or better still: Ask Abby, Abby sat beside me when I made it.” (76). Proctor puts two and two together and deduces that it is all a hoax. Proctor decides to go to court and expose the girls. Tragically they turn on him and he is accused of being the chief devil helper (114-120). Once again, Proctor tries to do good but is falsely accused and is represented as a tragic hero.
Proctor denies being a witch until the day of his death. He comes close to confessing to witchcraft but realizes that it disgraces his good name and it’s all that he will leave his children. Proctor says, ” I have three childrenhow may I teach them to walk like men in the world…” when he has sold his friends and his good name (143). Proctor also explains to the judge “Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!”(143). With this plea Proctor dashes all hopes of living and has established himself as a tragic hero.
It is evident, that John Proctor is the tragic hero. This is demonstrated by his relentless crusade to free his wife, expose the children as frauds, and not confessing to witchcraft. Arthur Miller chooses John Proctor to be the tragic hero of the story because Proctor had so much too lose.