John Proctor was a farmer with a wife and child. In the Crucible, he, along with his family and the rest of Salem, are engulfed in the witch trials. John and his wife, Elizabeth, become one of the many who are imprisoned by the court. He develops throughout the story as a person protecting the good of his name to conserving his character at his death. Proctor rips up the confession he has signed to preserve his social status. Social reputation is tremendously important in Salem’s theocracy. Public and private values are one and the same. In an environment where reputation plays such an important role, the fear of guilt by interaction of others becomes particularly spiteful. Focused on maintaining public reputation, the people of Salem must fear that the wrongdoings of friends will flaw their good names. John Proctor’s reputation is challenged on several occasions. His development is seen through the decisions he makes to ...view middle of the document...
John fulfills his personal social responsibility, but sacrifices the chance at protecting his family and neighbors that are affected by the trials.
John is confronted another time with a decision whether or not to reveal his affair. He is being questioned by Danforth in the courtroom. He calls Abigail a whore to stop a scene she and other girls are creating in the court to convince Mr. Danforth that Mary Warren and Abigail are not lying. John admits to his adultery and Danforth questions him and Abigail about the affair. Proctor exclaims that Elizabeth’s honesty and that she dismissed Abigail from the house because of the harlotry. Elizabeth is called in to confirm the accusation. She does not know whether or not to confess the affair. She lies to the court only to by disheartened at John’s shouting: “Elizabeth, I have confessed it!” John’s decision to admit his affair with Abigail shows his evolution of concern for his reputation. He becomes more apprehensious about his family’s safety than his good name. But his attempt is soiled when Elizabeth lies about the affair.
John Proctor’s final defense of his reputation occurs when he is in jail. The trials have already done their toll on the town of Salem. People are frightened, livestock are roaming free, and the court is begging for confessions from the prisoners to try and save themselves. Reverend Hale has realized that the power he once possessed has vanished and that his only way out of this catastrophe is to try and muster confessions from the remaining prisoners. Hale tries to convince John to confess and save himself, but john refuses. He tells Elizabeth to talk to John about the confession. Elizabeth convinces John to confess though he is reluctant about the falsity of his admission to witchcraft. Hale is relieved and has John sign a paper that declares his confession. John questions the necessity of the signature and Hale tells him that the confession is to be posted on the church doors. Proctor grabs the paper and rips it to shreds exclaiming that he would rather die with his name intact than be free with a tainted reputation.
John’s refusal to have his untrue confession posted in public redeems him for his earlier failure and allows him to die with integrity. John Proctor becomes an outstanding characterization of Arthur Miller’s theme of social responsibility.