Act Four of the Crucible Essay
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How does Miller present John Proctor as a heroic figure in Act Four of ‘The Crucible’? Does the play have any relevance for us watching it today? A hero is ‘a person who is admired for having done something very brave or having achieved something great’ according to www.dictionary.co.uk. I also think a hero is a person who doesn’t necessarily have to be of a ‘pure’ soul, who has never done anything wrong. For example, in ‘The Crucible,’ a person like Rebecca Nurse who never did anything wrong wasn’t portrayed as a hero to us.
We see John Proctor’s actions as more heroic and they are similar to Linford Christie’s actions (where he was accused for taking drugs and now acts as a senior mentor for athletes) which a modern audience watching it today would see as a comparable, if a less serious, situation.
Miller presents Proctor as a heroic figure in Act Four of ‘The Crucible’ by John Proctor’s actions. These include John refusing to sign the document, which would save his life. However, at the same time it would mean he would lie and Proctor would rather die than sign a document, which condemned him to working with the devil. I feel this shows John as a hero because he has not only done something very brave by giving his life, which people will admire, but because he has struggled through and done the right thing which will ultimately lead to an end in the accusations of witchcraft in Salem. This part of the play deserves a lot of attention as it shows the greatest act of heroism in the play by Proctor. It also reflects the most relevance for an audience watching today, who would relate John’s example to their own lives.
In the earlier acts of the play Miller shows John Proctor resisting temptation from Abigail. The reader sees this as heroic because we know that John has already had an affair and he doesn’t want to cheat again. The reader also knows that it is hard for John Proctor and when he does resist Abagail the reader sees this as a heroic action. The way other characters respond to John Proctor also shows us that John is a hero.
Miller shows other characters, for example Mary Warren, respecting him. The first time Miller introduces John into the play we see how other characters respect his authority. ‘MARY WARREN leaps in fright.’ Mary was doing wrong and Proctor discovered her. The fact that we see her leaping in fright shows how she respects John’s authority. She admires him enough to feel ashamed of her wrong doing and a hero is someone who is admired by other people.
In Act 4 Proctor knows he has made mistakes in the past and doesn’t think that people will see him as a hero if he is hung. ‘I cannot mount the gibbet like a saint. It is a fraud.’ By John saying this it shows he is not arrogant. The audience see arrogance as an unheroic action. John Proctor says he refuses to testify because he detests authority. ‘It is hard to give a lie to dogs.’ Miller makes John refer to authority figures as dogs because they are hanging people for incorrect and false acusations. Proctor refuses to lie because he wants to stand up to a corrupt justice system. The audience sees this as a heroic action because he is prepared to sacrifice himself in order to abolish the justice system in the future. For John to give his life it is the biggest act of bravery a man can do and we see this bravery as a noble action.
In this final act Miller suggests to us that John is performing actions with other people in mind rather than himself. If he confesses he wants to know if other people will be able to forgive him for lying. ‘What would you have me do?’ Proctor is thinking about confessing and he does not want Elizabeth, or any other person, to think badly about him for lying. This is because he is feeling guilty. This guilt shows human emotions and the audience sees this as something they can relate to in their everyday life, because John is a person like us.
However, John leads by example and, although he is human, he is a role model who always tries to do the right thing even if it is difficult and may have consequences for him. An earlier example of this is John attempting to save Elizabeth in court by confessing his act of adultery. ‘I have known her, sir.’ This is what makes him heroic for the audience as he tries to do the right thing, for other people not just him, when it is sometimes difficult because of the resulting consequences.
Another way in which we see John as heroic is because he physically tears up the confession slip. ‘PROCTOR tears the paper and crumples it.’ This action by Proctor is heroic because he is trying to correct his mistakes. Proctor isn’t perfect but he tries to make up for what he has done wrong in the past. Proctor doesn’t want to return to his old ways of doing wrong as he felt contrite and ashamed of his affair with Abigail. The audience admires his attempt to correct his wrong doing and in doing so Miller gains the audience’s respect for Proctor. Our admiration for Proctor makes us relate John to being a hero because by definition a hero is admired by other people because of their actions.