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How and why does Arthur Miller encourage audience sympathy for John Proctor

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Introduction

How and why does Arthur Miller encourage audience sympathy for John Proctor? John Proctor is a flawed man; he committed an adulterous affair, with a young girl, Abigail Williams, whilst she was working in his home, and while his wife was pregnant with his child. But, despite this, we still sympathise with John Proctor. Throughout the play, we come to see that Proctor is truly determined to atone for his sins, and feels desperately guilty. Proctor has many admirable qualities: he is honest, reliable, loyal, supportive, and he always puts his family first. But, he also has many weaknesses, and it is these weaknesses that eventually mark his death. He is easily angered, and head strong, he doesn't think of the consequences and he is single-minded. He flouts Puritan expectations by working on Sundays, and when Hale asks him what the ten commandments are, he can't recite them and we also discover his third child has not been baptised, due to his on running feud with the village reverend, Rev. Samuel Parris. However, the biggest flaw he possesses is his incapability to resist temptation. This, is the subtle undertone of the whole play, and is, along with his pride and honesty, is the reason why he is hanged. The village of Salem is small and puritanical society. Pleasure and leisure are seen as wrong and unnecessary, as well as working on a Sunday. They have very strict religious beliefs, and anyone seen to be flouting the expectations of the religion and of the village was severely dealt with. Salem was governed by a corrupt authority who only thought of themselves. Which ties into what Miller wrote 'The Crucible' for, an historic allegory of the McCarthy witch hunts against communism in America. From reading Miller's stage directions, we are given the impression of John Proctor as a powerful, strong minded man, 'powerful of body, not easily led'. ...read more.

Middle

Proctor feels that Elizabeth judges him, 'Let you look sometimes for the goodness in me, and judge me not.' Elizabeth says it is Proctor that judges himself, 'The magistrate sits in your heart that judge's you.' She understands how guilty he feels, but knows Proctor must atone before he can resolve his marriage and regain his self respect. He considers himself a 'fraud' for betraying 'his own vision of decent conduct.' Proctor is disappointed in himself for not being strong enough to resist temptation and for betraying his wife, and he regrets this deeply. The only way Proctor can make up for his sins is to atone, until then he is tortured by his actions. Elizabeth is the only one who understands his need for atonement. At first Proctor is reluctant to expose the truth about Abigail. This shows us he is afraid to hurt Abigail and possibly expose himself as a 'lecher', but he is also afraid of embarrassing his wife. It is only at the end of act two when Elizabeth is under threat that Proctor knows he must tell the truth. Proctor feels guilty when Elizabeth is accused because he knows it is Abigail's way of getting back at them; getting back at John for leaving her, and getting back at Elizabeth for having what she wants, and for dismissing her from working in her home. Proctor must sacrifice his good name, which is one of his most prized possessions to save his wife. This shows us how much he truly loves Elizabeth, even though they have grown apart. They no longer have any chemistry between them, as John and Abigail do, but they have a strong bond, which is the basis of their relationship. Abigail desires vengeance against Elizabeth, because she sees Elizabeth as the only obstacle between her and Proctor. Elizabeth's arrest is an opportunity for Proctor to atone his sins and wrong-doing, because he can come clean and confess his affair, and save Elizabeth, and rectify his marriage. ...read more.

Conclusion

She blames herself for the affair and believes if she had been a better wife Proctor wouldn't have had to go else where to fulfil his needs. Their forgiveness of each other allows him to make his decision to live, as he realises his love for Elizabeth and he can't let her go so soon after their reconciliation. But, when he signs the confession, the audience feel disappointed; their hero has taken the easy option, and we feel let down, as do the other 'good' characters in the play. He has betrayed them to save himself, and by doing so is aligning with the corrupt authority he despises so much. This is going against all that he has fought for, and shows us that he isn't as strong and brave as we originally perceived him to be. But, when he is told that his confession shall be nailed to the church door, he tears it up. Ultimately, he can't give in to the corrupt authority he has fought against all his life. He refuses to betray himself and his friends. This reflects the victims of the McCarthyism's own courtroom dilemmas, as they had the choice of whether to save themselves and betray their friends and beliefs, or stay true to themselves and face the consequences. We react to the denial with satisfaction that he made the right decision, but at the same time some remorse that he is leaving Elizabeth and their children. Proctor and Elizabeth remain united by staying true to their beliefs. Metaphorically, by making this choice Proctor has now being purified by the fire of the 'crucible'. His decision feels like the right choice because, as Elizabeth says 'he have his goodness now', he has regained his self respect and he has faced the consequences and stood up for what he believed in. Nobody can take that away from him, and he dies with dignity and pride; which he would never have been able to have had he lived. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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