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The Crucible by Arthur Miller: a critical lens essay Essay

“Good people…are good because they’ve come to wisdom through failure.” When William Saroyan spoke these immortal words, he meant that the path to human greatness lies in mistakes. In order for people to accomplish their goals, they must first pass through a series of hardships, in which they will make many errors. The mistakes help the people become righteous by teaching them what not to do, and what they must do to fix certain situations. The book The Crucible by Arthur Miller illustrates the meaning of this quote marvelously.

Since it is obvious that Proctor turned out to be a wise and proud man at the end, we must ask ourselves what led to this. The answer is that John has made many mistakes, and learned from every one of them In the book, John Proctor goes through the aftermaths of an liaison in the middle of the Salem Witch Hunt. Although in the beginning he seems to be a highly virtuous man, the affair stains his conscience as well as his relation with his wife, Abigail. To make his name once more righteous, John needs to learn from his mistake(and that’s exactly what he does).

The setting contributes a great deal to John’s predicament. It was his wife being sick for so long that caused John to be so sexually frustrated. Having Abigail, an attractive young woman, as a servant gave John somewhere to turn to with his sexual frustrations. The resulting affair was what the part of the phrase that mentioned failure was referring to. The worst part of John’s setting was that the townspeople were all strict Puritans, meaning that infidelity was a much more serious crime than it is today. These intense pressures on John make his mistake profoundly more detrimental, so the pressure to mend the damages also rose significantly. All of this suffering proves that good people must all go through failure and its aftermath sometime in their lives.

What defines people is not what mistakes they might have committed, but how they handled those mistakes later on. By the end of the book, John makes up for all that he has done wrong. At first, he goes to court in an attempt to discredit Abigail and the other children. When it fails, he openly admits to cheating on his wife with Abigail, which spoiled his good name in the town. This act shows John coming to wisdom. He understands that his wife is much more important to him than anything else in the world. Later on in the story when Elizabeth, John, and a few remaining prisoners are about to be executed, John offers a false confession to witchcraft.

For a moment, it seems although everything is saved, until it is proclaimed that the paper with the confession will be posted on the church door. This is where Proctor falters yet once more. He refuses to have his name blackened to that extent. This shows us that wisdom sometimes comes through multiple failures. If John would not have been stopped from allowing the paper to be hung by his self-pride, all the prisoners would have be freed, and he would have had a family again. However, as Saroyan pointed out, failure is a crucial part to wisdom. When all else failed, John turned to wisdom. He got hanged along with some other prisoners in order for his wife and sons to be able to live with some dignity about their name.

What makes us truly wise are all the mistakes that we have done on our journey to wisdom. The mistakes reveal to us our deepest faults, which if used correctly, are studied and mended by us. In The Crucible, John Proctor had many faults. He cheated on his wife, he stayed out of the ridiculous trials until it was too late, and he didn’t save a bunch of townspeople from hanging by not agreeing to sign that he did committed witchcraft. Despite this, he gained wisdom at the end of the book by going through many of life’s most difficult experiences, and by messing up a lot. This taught him not to make those same mistakes in the future, so it greatly helped him in the long run.


Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. 1. Penguin, 1976.

Moncur, Michael. The Quotations Page. 2007. .

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