The True Tragic Hero: The Crucible’s John Proctor

1375 words - 6 pages

The true tragic hero: The Crucible’s John Proctor

A tragic hero is a noble man who commits a fatal flaw. The hero’s downfall is a result of their choices which leads to a punishment that exceeds the crime. “The difference between Proctor and Willy Loman is enormous; the former is the rather typical tragic hero who is defiant to the end, the latter is trapped in submission and is living a lie” (McGill 4). John Proctor is one of the main characters in The Crucible. he is married to Elizabeth Proctor and they live in Salem. In Arthur Miller’s famous play, The Crucible, John Proctor represents a classic tragic hero because he is a well respected man of noble stature, he is conflicted because of his fatal flaw, and his downfall is a result of his own choices.

First, in The Crucible, John Proctor is very well known in the town of Salem. “John Proctor was not simply a farmer but a man of significant wealth derived from diverse sources: inheritance, farming, rents, tavern keeping, and commercial ventures” (McGill 5). The Proctors get their wealth from many sources which has caused them to be very high in the social class. “Miller does refer to Proctor as a farmer, notes that he has followed the family tradition of tinkering with inventions, and consistently implies that he and his friends represent a social element inferior to the Putnams” (McGill 5). During The Crucible John Proctor is constantly faced with the problem of preserving his good name. “Previously preferred over truth, his good name is now preferred to life itself” (Popkin 7). John Proctor’s reputation is very important to him and he consistently tries to maintain his status in Salem. When it comes to his trial he chooses to give up his own life rather than tarnish his reputation.

Second of all, in The Crucible John Proctor commits a fatal flaw. “The tragic hero, whether Antony, Phedre, Hippolytus, or even hero, is like all other men in that he is guilty of wrongdoing” (McCollom 6). Proctor personally feels he violates his own moral code because in the play he is unfaithful to his wife (Popkin 142). John Proctor committs adultery with his former servant, Abigail. John’s wife, Elizabeth, later fires Abigail because she was suspicious of her and John and wanted her to leave him alone. In The Crucible Reverend Hale is talking to the Proctor’s and asks them to prove their knowledge of their religion by reciting the ten commandments. Proctor starts to name them and accidentally misses the seventh sin, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Popkin 6). This was more than a coincidence it was John Proctor unknowingly confessing to his sin. When Proctor is wrongly accused of witchcraft, Proctor suffers more from his guilt for his adultery not because of the accusations (McGill 3). “The hero’s action is guilty from one point of view and innocent from another” (McCollom 4). Towards the end of The Crucible Elizabeth Proctor relieves John from his guilt. From her point of view, John’s mistake was also...

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