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In this essay I aim to find out if John Proctor is a man with all the necessary qualities to be considered a hero, or if he has too many bad points and is to be considered a non-heroic man. In my essay I will show that the good qualities (in my view) outnumber the bad. John Proctor is seen to be mentally strong by holding off the inconvenience of Abigail Williams. He refuses to give in to her demands, even though we know that they have a history together.
He resists the temptation of resuming their intimate relationship, which if he had done could in some way have tied him to the devil if she had been questioned on the subject of witchcraft.
Therefore he pushes her away and calls her ‘child’. This is significant as it suggests that he is above her, and it must make her very angry. Also she is no longer a child thanks to him.
The fact that he has had an affair in the first place though, is not heroic at all. By standing up for his wife against Abigail, he is displaying many heroic qualities. Although he has had a relationship with Abby, he still feels deeply for Elizabeth, and is happy to show it. ‘You speak nothing of Elizabeth’ This shows that Abigail means nothing to John compared to his wife, Elizabeth.
After all, John has children with her and is not prepared to leave their life behind for an affair. When the poppet is found in the house, Proctor immediately jumps to protect his wife.
‘Who charged her? ‘ ‘Why, Abigail Williams charge her. ‘ ‘On what proof, what proof? ‘ John loves his wife, and would do anything to protect her. Proctor had a tendency to speak the truth no matter when, or how. ‘Your father had a habit of willing land that never belonged to him, if I may say it plain ‘ By being so honest, the audience cannot help but be fascinated by him. It is not often that you find a person as open as John is.
Surely it is a heroic quality to never lie; otherwise you are not being truthful and therefore are not a hero. As well as telling the truth, Proctor also said whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. In particular he has a strong opinion of the village minister, Parris. He demonstrates this several times in the play. ‘I have trouble enough without I come five mile to hear him preach only hellfire and bloody damnation’ ‘Can you speak one minute before we land in hell again I am sick of hell’ Proctor feels that Reverend Parris preaches only about hell and evil.
As he is so furious about the way Parris performs his work, he has stopped going to church as much as he used to. This makes some people superstitious of him, and is looked on as a “lack of involvement in the church and the local community”. In a way this makes me think that he is a hero because he is standing up for what he believes in, but it is a stupid thing to do at such a time. What could be seen as very heroic is that Proctor confesses to Elizabeth that he was alone with Abigail for ‘a minute or two. ‘ ‘You were alone with her? ‘ ‘For a moment.
‘ This all goes back to the fact that he is permanently honest, and he shows great courage by admitting to his wife that he was alone with the woman that he had an affair with. Proctor confesses his affair to the court in order to save his wife’s life. This will show that Abigail Williams had bitterness towards the Proctors, as John picked his wife over her after their affair. ‘Elizabeth I have told them’ If both John and Elizabeth had separately told the court this Elizabeth would have been freed, but whilst trying to protect her husband she does not realise that he has already confessed.
Afterwards, John falsely confesses to witchcraft to save his own life. But when he hears that his signed confession will be publicly displayed at the Church, he changes his mind and rips it up. When he is begged by Hale to reconsider, and told that he will hang, he refuses because it would dirty his name. ‘Because it is my name! ‘ John Proctor is a respected resident of Salem, and when signing the (false) confession, Parris says; ‘It is a weighty name; it will strike the village that Procter confess’ This shows that the people of Salem see him as a good citizen, who is only good and seems not evil.
In the end Proctor dies to save his name, which I consider to be the utmost heroic act. Many people would have taken the easy way out and let the confession stand. But his principles are so strong that he cannot dirty his name, and would rather die than do so. This act is both courageous and heroic. However there are also non-heroic qualities to John Proctor: For a start he committed adultery. This was seen as unforgivable behaviour at the time, because it was breaking one of the Ten Commandments. To make matters worse he forgets the commandment against adultery when challenged by Hale on his knowledge of them.
‘You have said that twice, sir. ‘ ‘Aye. ‘ ‘Adultery, John. ‘ When he does admit to adultery, the audience feels that he should have admitted to it earlier so that a lot of time could have been saved, and possibly his life. John seems to have a cold relationship with Elizabeth. ‘I’ll not have your suspicion any more’ Elizabeth:’ then let you earn it’ They don’t seem to be very close at all, but to be fair, when trouble is at hand they do pull together. Proctor has an almost violent tendency when he is pushed far enough. This happens a few times in the play. He threatens Abigail: ‘You look for a whipping. ‘ He also threatens Mary Warren.
‘I’ll beat the devil out of you. ‘ This violent personality of his is almost certainly not heroic at all. He has threatened two women; no hero would do such a thing. The only time that he lies in the play is when he signs the false confession. But in those circumstances, I think anyone would have done the same as him. Anyway, he tears that up in the end, in order to save his good name. Miller wrote ‘The Crucible’ at the time when McCarthyism was at its peak. He uses the Salem witch-hunt to put forward his views on McCarthyism-the hunting down and prosecuting of any Americans who were thought to have taken part in anti-capitalism.
The accusations became out of control and many people were asked to ‘name names’ of people in meetings held many years ago. Miller was himself brought before the committee led by Joseph McCarthy. He saw the public confessions required by the committee, as equivalents with the naming of names at Salem in 1692. Over all I think that there are so many more heroic qualities of John Proctor than non-heroic, that it is impossible not to declare him a hero. Miller purposely does this to show the reader/audience that Proctor is a true hero. Just the one act of dying to save his name makes him a hero.
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