John Proctor Tragic, Or Pathet Essay

1359 words - 5 pages

John Proctor: Tragic, or Pathetic? "I have given you my soul; leave me my name!" (138). This is the disturbing vision we are left with at the end of Arthur Miller's play The Crucible. This scream is let out by the main character John Proctor; who has been accused of witchcraft, and is to be hung on that merit unless he confesses. John Proctor is innocent of such deeds, yet he will lose his life if he does not admit he committed such a dastardly crime. But if he does admit to it he will be considered an outcast in his town and he fears that he will never be able to raise his children properly and be able to teach them to "walk like men in the world" (137). But in the same spirit, how will he be able to teach his children at all if he is hung. This is the Trap that has been set for John Proctor. His choice though is the one of a coward; for if he had instead of being hung chose to live the rest of his life as an outcast he would at least still be able to teach his children the error of his ways. Thus because John Proctor had a way out of his trap and opted not to take it because of selfish pride he is not tragic. Tragedy has been said to be the "progress from ignorance, through a cycle of suffering, to enlightenment" (Merle 4). But what exactly does that mean and who would fit this bill of tragedy? Arthur Miller was quoted by the essayist Koon as saying "The common man is apt a subject for tragedy as kings" (Koon 5) And the same idea was reaffirmed by George Lillo who said "that tragedy need not concern itself soley with kings" (as quoted by Siegel 92). These statements seem to hold true to the measure, no one is more common then Willy Lowman and he obviously starts out ignorant about how he is viewed by others and through a path of rejection and other such suffering does find enlightenment, yet his response to such enlightenment may not have been the same as one would expect the path of an enlightened one to take, still it does hold true. To contradict this though if you look at another example of a classic American tragic figure like Blanche Dubois, you see that enlightenment is not achieved. Though she does go through terrible suffering it seems all for naught as she is taken away at the end of the play, But it cannot be said that she is not tragic. Therefore a better measure is needed. Clinton Trowbridge wrote that "tragedy must create an impending, ever-growing sense that the character will be destroyed yet we must never for a moment regard the tragic hero's struggle against his fate as absurd" (42). This measure seems to work, but much like how the part of enlightenment seems to be the flaw in Merle's definition, so is the latter part of Trowbridge's where he states that we cannot feel that the "hero's struggle" is "absurd" for if we look at that part in isolation one example immediately jumps out that disproves it. Luke in the movie Cool Hand Luke often conjures up absurd images whether it be eating 50 eggs raw or telling of...

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