The way in which the protagonist, John Proctor, is presented in The Crucible somewhat changes throughout the play. Firstly, he is presented as quite dominant and violent, however as the story progresses, he is presented still as a violent character but a much more likeable one. He is also one to go with his first instincts, and has a lot of pride. These two characteristics are the main factors that lead to Proctors downfall.
The first scene in which Proctor is introduced is set in Reverend Parris’ house. Upon entering, the first line he speaks in the play is “Be you foolish, Mary Warren? Be you deaf? I forbid you to leave the house, did I not?” Mary clearly feels intimidated by Proctor, as even before he speaks she “leaps with fright”. This suggests that Proctor is an important man in Salem society and that he has a good reputation. On the other hand, when he says “I am looking for you more often than my cows!” the audience starts to see that Proctor is a rather humorous and charismatic person. As the play progresses however, Proctor becomes less like this and more miserable. This therefore creates a large impact on the audience as they see him quickly change from the way he was at the beginning of the play.
The next part of this scene sees Proctor speaking to the antagonist of the play, Abigail Williams. The scene introduces Proctor’s main Hamartia, which is that he cheated on his wife Elizabeth with Abigail. Lots of animal imagery is used in this scene, for example, Abigail uses the phrase “sweated like a stallion” and Proctor refers to what Abigail said about him as “a wild thing to say”. This symbolises the fact that Proctor acts on his first impulses is an animalistic manner, the way he acted solely upon his lust for Abigail without giving it any proper thought. As the scene progresses, the affair that Proctor had with Abigail is slowly implied to the audience through the flirtatious dialogue which the two share, and through lines such as “you know me better”. The audience can therefore establish throughout the scene that Abigail is the antagonist and that the fact that Proctor slept with her will be the cause of his downfall.
At the start of act two, Proctor is presented as a man of quite a violent nature, and the audience also starts to see how the relationship between him and his wife, Elizabeth, is failing. As he opens the door and enters, there is a sense of a change of atmosphere in the house as Proctor can be seen “carrying his gun”. This represents the more aggressive nature of Proctor in contrast to Elizabeth’s more gentle nature, as she is “softly singing to the children”. This noticeable difference in character between Proctor and his wife starts to inform the audience that their relationship could be quite poor, without the dialogue even starting. The gun could also represent Proctors impulsive nature and his tendency to solve things with violence.
In the final scene of The Crucible, Proctor refuses to confess to witchcraft to save his life, as he is much too proud to do so. He yells to Danforth, “You will not use me!” He would much rather keep his pride and his reputation and therefore be hanged than be used to justify the deaths of other people convicted of witchcraft. At this point in the play, the audience is starting to like Proctor and so the scene is full of suspense as we conclude that Proctor is certainly going to die. After he has refused to confess, he says “I do think I see some shred of goodness in John Proctor”, suggesting that after all of his sins, this is the only good thing he has done in his life. Proctor therefore goes to his fate, still maintaining his reputation and his pride.
In conclusion, John Proctor is presented as a classic example of the protagonist of a tragedy, and also as an allegory for the people who would refuse to confess to being involved in communism, and give up the names of other people involved in communist groups during the time of McCarthyism. He is presented as very proud and instinctive, and he will not go against what he thinks in right, even to save his own life.