John Proctor says to himself ‘What is John Proctor? I am no saint; for me it is fraud. I am not that man. ‘ Explore Millers Presentation of Proctor in The Crucible. How far do you agree with Proctors analysis of himself? I do not completely agree with Proctor’s analysis of himself ‘I am no saint… ‘ as although he makes mistakes he redeems himself in the end by making the honest and honourable choice; dying with a clear conscience and with dignity. The Crucible, based on the Salem Witch-hunts in 1692 also has a historical link to the McCarthy Trials for Un-American activities in the early 1950s.
Both of these occasions caused hysteria, and they were both seen as controversial in American history. Abigail Williams, 1692, and John McCarthy, 1950s, are the accusers; their purpose is to seek power and to dominate people around them. Miller uses the Greek tragedy genre conventions; tragic hero and hubris. He expresses how the excess ambition and pride of the accuser can ruin innocent peoples’ lives as they join in with the hysteria being created. Consequently, like Mary turned on Proctor in the play, people betray friends in fear of their own life.
Within my essay I will be exploring Millers presentation of Proctor in The Crucible and how his attitude changes as the play progresses; in the end grappling with his conscience to become the tragic hero of the play. Arthur Miller first introduces John Proctor in his historical notes, ‘He was a kind of man- powerful of body, even-tempered, and not easily led… ‘ This gives the impression that he is a dominant and respected man. He also comes across as quite guilty for some reason and seems aware of his mistakes: ‘He is a sinner, a sinner not only against the moral fashion of the time but against his own decent conduct.
‘ This shows that John Proctor has a strong sense of morals and he knows when he’s done something wrong. At the beginning of the play, we also discover that John Proctor has had a sexual relationship with Abigail, his servant at the time. Abigail still lusts after him and tries hard to lure him towards her: Winningly she comes a little closer, with a confidential, wicked air. This suggests that they have had a secret, intimate relationship; Abigail says ‘Give me a word, John. A soft word. ‘ Abigail is really trying to cling on to Proctor.
Miller uses stage directions to create the intimate tension between them and show Proctor’s power and control over the tense situation; Proctor is resisting the temptations and his lust towards Abigail, gently pressing her from him, with great sympathy but firmly. This reveals that Proctor is fighting against himself to be faithful to his wife although it is noticeable that he has a soft spot for her. Miller introduces his unwavering and firm character; Proctor says ‘I may think of you softly from time to time. But I will cut off my hand before I’ll ever reach for you again.
‘ This confirms that Proctor is adamant to act morally and put Abigail in her place. Proctor’s relationship with Parris is bitter; they dislike each other. Miller uses Proctor’s language to show his power and authority towards Parris, Proctor says ‘… I come five mile to hear him preach only hellfire and bloody damnation. Take it to heart Parris. ‘ Proctor comes across as an exceedingly powerful man who speaks his mind and doesn’t seem to care what people think of him, he obviously doesn’t like Parris’s approach towards religion.
Parris seems to be a self-righteous man who tries to show off his wealth and reputation in Salem. Miller expresses Proctor’s dislike of Parris through the language he uses against him. He says ‘… he preach nothin’ but gold candlesticks until he had them… I look to heaven and see my money glaring at his elbows- it hurt my prayer… ‘ It is apparent that Parris and Proctor’s relationship is hostile as Proctor doesn’t like Parris’s attitude towards religion and his evident desire to accumulate wealth. We are introduced to the awkward relationship between Proctor and Elizabeth.
Miller cleverly uses the stage directions to illustrate the tension building up between them. Proctor; He gets up, goes to her, kisses her. She receives it. With a certain disappointment, he returns to the table. This conveys a definite lack of intimacy between them. We can also see that Proctor is thoroughly striving to obtain Elizabeth’s trust after his affair. He says ‘I mean to please you, Elizabeth. ‘ Although he is sincerely attempting to gain her forgiveness she is not reconciled; her distrust of him is evident and as a result of it their intimate relationship is frail.
They seem quite distant and the atmosphere between them is quite cold, although there is a sense of love. Elizabeth doesn’t want friction, and yet she must, this creates a sense that she loves him dearly but she can’t forgive him so easily, she says ‘you come so late I thought you’d be gone to Salem this afternoon. ‘ Although it is obvious to the audience that she loves her husband, it is perceptible that her suspicions of him linger due to his affair. Miller conveys Proctor as quite selfish and frustrated that she won’t forgive him quicker. He says ‘… your justice would freeze beer!