Arthur Miller had no intention to compose a book based on the Salem witch trials. Claiming he was no “scholar, or perhaps a historian”, the comparisons between these events and on-going ones such as The Red Scare and McCarthyism had directed him to elaborate in such calamity and distress. The Crucible, successor of Miller’s other playwrights as in “All My Sons” and “Death of a Salesman”, is play which portrays the events which occurred in 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, USA. In The Crucible, John Proctor is, to some extent, worshipped.
To the public in Salem, he seems to have no flaws whatsoever; is idolized by many, including Abigail Williams, and even though committing sins, for instance adultery, he still retains this status. Arthur Miller portrays him as a “tormented individual” but only to the readers, he believes he has damaged himself in the eyes of God, Elizabeth and himself which causes him to wallow in self-pity and inferiority. The broken trust between John and Elizabeth is merely the only weakness he has, as this intensifies his inability to forgive himself.
In this playwright, integrity plays a big role as Proctor keeps his good name even in the face of death. Proctor willingly sacrifices his name to protect his wife, contradicting his moral beliefs, but then refuses to let them slander his name by posting his confession on the church door. On doing this, he receives his wife’s trust and forgiveness again, but he can not base the remainder of his life on a lie, with too much pride to swallow; his only ethical route is death.
With the factor of his wife’s forgiveness and trust, he then forgives himself and regains self-respect and in the only time of the play, the end, Proctor then feels at peace, ironically when he is about to die. “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! ” as he rages the last part, he then decides not to shudder at death’s door; it gives him to courage to die heroically with his new found righteousness.
His name also indicates how reputation was significant, how he does not want it besmirched, which again contradicts his whole ethos. He wants his name to be kept sacred, even after committing a sin, which shows how insecure he is but then again his public and private moral are one and the same, which also applies to most in Salem. “Life is God’s most precious gift; no principle, however glorious, may justify the taking of it. ” Proctor takes this into heavy account as his desire to stay honest and his desire to preserve his family is tearing him apart.
But as Reverend Hale states above, God will forgive him if he confesses, but to what? Confess to a lie. Scene 4 shows his ultimate struggle but his courage and pride brings himself to peace as he decides that his death is the answer to all problems. In my opinion, a man with such integrity who puts his own wife in front of his own remaining existence is a man to be surely admired and respected, even in wrong doing; he seeks salvation which gives him a “holy” aspect.