Crucible As A Hero A tragedy should bring fear and pity to the reader. A man in this tragedy not should be exceptionally righteous, but his faults should come about because of a certain irreversible error on his part. This man should find a bad or fatal ending to add to the tragedy of the story, for this man in the tragic hero. The protagonist John Proctor portrays a tragic hero in The Crucible; his hamartia of adultery causes great internal struggles, he displays hubris by challenging authority, and he encounters catastrophe through recognition and reversal. John Proctors decision to betray his wife causes internal struggles and ultimately leads to his catastrophe at the end of the drama.
Hamartia is the primary error of the tragic hero which provokes part of his misfortune. Proctors serious mistake of adultery delivers problems with Abigail Williams and indirectly causes his jailing. Abigail is a grown young woman, and yet she is an orphan who mistakes John Proctors sex for true love. When Proctor tells Abigail that the relationship can no longer continue, the girl becomes angry and sorrowful (1098). In order to prove Abigails sinfulness and to discredit her in front of the court, Proctor proclaims that he had an affair with this evil child. The outraged court officials summon Elizabeth Proctor to find the truth.
When asked about her husband, Elizabeths soul is twisted, for reporting the truth could destroy her husbands reputation, but lying means breaking her solemn oath to God. Because she is selfless, Elizabeth chooses to lie and save her husband, but perhaps condemn herself to hell for such a sin. This scene indicates dramatic irony, for Proctor knows that which Elizabeth is not aware of, and this is that he has already “confessed it” (1148). The court jails Proctor; Elizabeth Proctors selfless act backfires. Proctors hamartia of adultery indirectly causes his jailing and gives him the reputation of a liar. The court views his real truth as a lie and believes he defies authority.
Although John Proctor does not truly defy authority in this scene of the play, for he tells the truth and his wife lies, he challenges control in many other instances. John Proctor exposes hubris through his hate of Reverend Parris. Hubris is placing ones self equal to authority or to God, and it is a necessary trait of the tragic hero. John Proctor proclaims that he does not go to Church, an act the court and townspeople view as a revolt on the supremacy of God, because the Reverend Parris is corrupt. Parris is greedy and cares more about the sake of his reputation that the health of his own daughter.
Proctor resents the Church because Parris runs it. In the eyes of officials, this casual negligence of God turns Proctor into an unchristian, sinful rebel. Though Proctors reasons for disregarding the Church are quite reasonable, people do not accept them in this time of devils and evil. The tragic hero not only places himself as an equal of God, but as an equal of court authority as well. John Proctor insults the court by tearing up a search warrant, and officials later accuse him of trying to overthrow the court because of his controversial evidence against Abigail and the girls.
When Herrick and Cheever appear at the Proctor home to capture and take away Elizabeth Proctor for witchcraft, Proctor vigorously protests, for he knows that Abigail Williams created a scheme in order to get rid of his wife. John Proctor does not tolerate this; because he is a tragic hero, he does not allow another soul to suffer for his mistake. As a challenge to court authority, he tears up the search warrant (1127). This act escalates the war between Proctor and the court. Proctor will go to the extreme, even if it means punishment by death, in order to save his wife.
Proctor delivers to the court his statement that Abigail and the other girls are frauds. He has no desire to bring forth this information because he knows it will simply anger Abigail and most likely ruin him because of Abigails power. His statement is necessary, though, to the salvation of his wife. When Danforth hears John Proctors shocking revelation that the girls are frauds, he is outraged and so dismisses this evidence as an attempt to overthrow the court (1134). Danforth feels he must choose Abigails argument over that of Proctors, for otherwise the townspeople might view Danforth as a murderer because of his orders to execute those people accused of witchcraft by Abigail and the girls.
In this case, Danforth bestows upon John Proctor the image of a man of hubris in order to protect his own reputation. Proctor knows that Danforth will never accept his evidence of the girls as frauds, and this in part causes his resolution. Near the end of The Crucible, Proctor believes that he has lost the battle of witchcraft. He feels there is no hope that the court will free him from execution, and he panics. A person can be strong for his entire life, but when the moment of death comes, he will crack. If given a choice between life, but by lying, or death, but through honor, the decision is made more difficult through the hysteria experienced. John Proctor chooses life, though he knows this means a life of regret and dishonesty.
Proctor does, however, realize his mistake in choosing this sort of life over an honorable death before it is too late. Proctors decision to ultimately choose a death of honor over a life of shame is the major reversal of the play. Reversal is the change of fortune that results from recognition, or learned knowledge that results in a change of action in a character, of any tragic hero. John Proctors recognition is his discovery that he contains goodness. “For now I do think I see some shred of goodness in John Proctor” (1166).
When Proctor believes that he is a man of no decency, he chooses to live by confessing witchcraft, since this lie fits his personality. Through Elizabeths support, this tragic hero sees the goodness he holds and acts on it by reversal and by choosing an honorable death. He realizes that this action is one that would bring about Elizabeths forgiveness, and her mercy is what he searches for throughout the play. John Proctors sudden change through recognition and reversal is a major crisis in the play, and from this stems his catastrophe. Proctors catastrophe is that he will hang. The catastrophe is the closing part of a drama that results from the crisis.
Because John Proctor decides to deny witchcraft through his recognition and reversal, he finds catastrophe by his sentence to hang. The catastrophe also ties up the drama and gives a greater emphasis that John Proctor is a tragic hero, for he accepts his death with silence and shows a capacity for suffering. Another quality of the tragic man is belief in his own freedom, show by John Proctor in the catastrophe. Proctors freedom is death; death is his escape from the Puritan world which persecutes and punishes him with cries of witchcraft. Overall, the catastrophe reveals the tragedy and integrity of John Proctor, making this character a tragic hero. John Proctor shows that he is a tragic hero through his struggles within the play. He struggles with his sin of adultery, for it causes breaks in his bonds between his wife and Abigail. He grapples with authority, for Proctor is not one who listens to authority simply because it is the excepted thing to do.
He also faces death because he chooses to be a noble man and denies all charges of witchcraft. Though John Proctor is not a perfect man, his beliefs and values are in the right place; he listens to his heart. When his head tells him to listen to the court because it is the law, and when Hale tells him to choose to live as an accused witch, Proctor does not listen because he knows that these acts are not in his best interest. He follows his soul, a lesson the whole world should learn to follow. Bibliography Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. Literature, Timeless Voices, Timeless Themes.
Ed. Ellen Bowler, et al. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 1999.