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The Crucible - Is John Proctor truly a tragic hero?

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Introduction

THE CRUCIBLE "BECAUSE IT IS MY NAME! BECAUSE I CAN NEVER HAVE ANOTHER IN MY LIFE! . . . HOW MAY I LIVE WITHOUT MY NAME? I HAVE GIVEN YOU MY SOUL; LEAVE ME MY NAME! WITH THESE WORDS, JOHN PROCTOR DAMNS HIMSELF TO A DEATH BY HANGING AND THEREBY COMPLETES THE CIRCLE THAT BEGAN WHEN HE KNOWINGLY TOOK ABIGAIL WILLIAMS IN THE HAY IN THE BARN. JOHN PROCTOR HAS ALL OF THE MAKINGS OF A TRAGIC HERO, RIGHT DOWN TO HIS STUBBORN PRIDE. BUT IS JOHN TRULY A TRAGIC HERO? THERE IS AN INTERESTING SENSE THAT COMES FROM A READING OF THE CRUCIBLE. WE CAN SEE THAT ARTHUR MILLER HAD MULTIPLE PURPOSES IN WRITING THE PLAY. TRUE THERE WAS THE ISSUE OF SENATOR JOSEPH MCCARTHY AND THE BETTER DEAD THAN RED CAMPAIGN OF THE 1950'S THAT SAW SO MUCH HURT AND FEAR IN AMERICA, ESPECIALLY IN ENTERTAINMENT CIRCLES -- THOSE CIRCLES THAT MILLER HIMSELF MOVED IN. YES, HE USED THE WITCH TRIALS OF 1619 SALEM AS THE VEHICLE TO SHOW THAT AMERICA HAD NOT COME FAR FROM THAT HYSTERIA WHICH THREATENED THE YOUNG COLONY. THAT SAME HYSTERIA WAS THERE WHEN MCCARTHY CALLED HIS FIRST WITNESS AND TRIED TO SHOW THAT A COMMUNIST LURKED IN EVERY NOOK AND CRANNY IN AMERICA -- IN GOVERNMENT, INDUSTRY, FINANCE AND ENTERTAINMENT. ...read more.

Middle

SALEM WAS PART OF A THEOCRACY -- THE COLONY OF MASSACHUSETTS. GOD'S LAW WAS THE STATE LAW AND TO BE A WITCH PUT YOU IN OPPOSITION TO BOTH LAWS. THE JUDGES SAW THEMSELVES AS PRESERVING CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLES. MILLER MAKES THE POINT THAT ONCE CONSCIENCE BECOMES PUBLIC RATHER THAN PRIVATE, LEGAL ARGUMENT IS USELESS AND THE ONLY VERDICT CAN BE GUILTY. A CONSEQUENCE OF THIS IS THAT THOSE WHO ACCUSE OTHERS ARE SEEN AS RIGHTEOUS, THERE IS NO QUESTION THAT THEY ARE TRUTHFUL. PROCTOR ASKS, IS THE ACCUSER ALWAYS HOLY NOW? IT IS A MORAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE ACCUSERS TO COME FORWARD AND THEREFORE BE BELIEVED. SO IT IS EASY FOR UNSCRUPULOUS PEOPLE TO COME FORWARD AND LIE BECAUSE THERE IS NO QUESTION THAT THEY ARE BEING TRUTHFUL. REVEREND HALE BEGINS IN THE THIRD ACT TO REALISE THAT THERE MAY BE ANOTHER SIDE TO THE STORY, THAT THERE IS A QUESTION OF WHICH SIDE IS TRUE AND WHICH A LIE. HE ASKS DANFORTH TO CONSIDER HAVING A SOLICITOR ASSIST PROCTOR IN THE ARGUMENT. DANFORTH REPLIES AND IN HIS REPLY HE DEMONSTRATES THAT HE IS UNWILLING TO HAVE HIS MIND CHANGED. HE HAS DECIDED THAT THE ACCUSED ARE GUILTY AND WILL NOT HAVE ARGUMENTS PUT THAT WILL SWAY HIS DEVOUTLY HELD BELIEFS: MR HALE, BELIEVE ME; FOR A MAN OF SUCH TERRIBLE LEARNING, YOU ARE MOST BEWILDERED. . ...read more.

Conclusion

ELIZABETH CALLS THIS THE DEVIL'S ARGUMENT, AND IT IS A VIEWPOINT THAT PROCTOR LOOKS AT, CONSIDERS AND DISMISSES. ELIZABETH WANTS JOHN THERE WITH HER, BUT WILL NOT ASK HIM TO SACRIFICE HIS NEW-FOUND GOODNESS. DANFORTH GETS HIS CONFESSION BUT DEMANDS MORE. HE DEMANDS THAT PROCTOR PERMIT HIS CONFESSION TO HANG IN PUBLIC, A THING THAT PROCTOR IS UNWILLING TO DO. THERE IS A VERBAL TUSSLE OVER THE CONFESSION. PROCTOR BELIES THE STATEMENTS OF THE PREVIOUS ACT AND STATES HIS REASON: BECAUSE IT IS MY NAME! BECAUSE I CAN NOT HAVE ANOTHER IN MY LIFE! HOW MAY I LIVE WITHOUT MY NAME? I HAVE GIVEN YOU MY SOUL -- LEAVE ME MY NAME! DANFORTH, CONTRARY TO ADVICE FROM HALE AND PARRIS PUSHES SO PROCTOR TEARS THE CONFESSION AND ACCEPTS DEATH. WE CAN STILL SEE THIS AS A MANIFESTATION OF THE OLD PROCTOR'S PRIDE BUT WE DO NOT FEEL IT AS DEBILITATING AS FULL ARISTOTELIAN PRIDE[HUBRIS]. IT IS IMPORTANT TO SEE THAT PROCTOR IS CRUCIALLY IMPORTANT TO THE PLAY AS A TRAGIC HERO WHOSE SEARCH FOR INTEGRITY ISOLATES HIM FROM A HYSTERICAL SOCIETY. THE ISSUES OF THE PLAY ARE EMBODIED IN PROCTOR AND ARE RESOLVED AT THE END BY ELIZABETH'S STATEMENT HE HAVE HIS GOODNESS NOW. GOD FORBID THAT I TAKE IT AWAY FROM HIM. ...read more.

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