English Honors 10A
29 October, 2014
In The Crucible, Arthur Miller traced the path of the protagonist, John Proctor, in his quest for redemption. At first, Proctor was plagued with guilt and doubt after he committed adultery with Abigail. However, as the play progressed, Proctor started down the path to salvation by confronting his sins with his wife. Finally, in the last act, Proctor was able to regain his self-respect and his own forgiveness, finding the relief of vindication in himself. Proctor’s character change through The Crucible was portrayed in three stages: destitution, progress, and resolution.
In the beginning, Proctor was devastated by his adultery with Abigail. He judged himself as “a sinner not only against the moral fashion of the time, but against his own vision of decent conduct” (Miller 20). According to the moral fashions of the rigid Puritan society, indulging in sex was considered highly immoral. Thus, under such a standard of this period, Proctor undoubtedly viewed himself as a serious sinner. Additionally, his adultery pitted him against his own views of conduct. Proctor used to be a well-respected man, one known for his distaste towards hypocrisy. However, the incident caused him to “come to regard himself as a kind of fraud” (Miller 21). By partaking in adultery, he was shaken down to the core, for he had done something that went against his principles, and, in effect, turned him into a hypocrite. The incident shattered his dignity, leaving behind only the shards of doubt and guilt. These feelings of uncertainty ate away at Proctor’s confidence and caused him to lose respect for himself. It was under this condition that Proctor entered the play: wrecked with guilt and uncertainty.
As the play progressed, Proctor’s began to pull out of his state of insecurity and guilt. Instead of harboring the guilt inside and allowing it to fester, Proctor decided to face it in an open confrontation with his wife: “[I am] every moment judged for lies as though I come into a court when I come into this house” (Miller 39). By relating their house to a court, Proctor viewed himself as a criminal, and in doing so, compared his guilt to that of a convict. This point of view revealed the level of remorse Proctor was experiencing, a level that was too much for him. It also shed light on the fact that Proctor was tired of being laden with guilt and insecurity every time he saw his wife. Elizabeth replied to the statement by saying, “I do not judge you. The magistrate sits in your heart that judges you” (Miller 55). This response indicated the fact that John’s feelings of guilt did...