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The Crucible- Heroes Of Salem

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Kelly Noel Finneran

November 3, 2004


En 10

In the play The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, the character John Proctor will not lie and confess to something he did not do. Thus, he is hanged for his principles. Proctor has two main principles he felt were more important to respect and uphold than his own life. The most obvious one was his reputation. In theocratic Salem, where private and public ethics are regarded equally, one's reputation plays an important role. In such an environment where reputation is regarded so highly many are afraid of guilt by association. Various characters base their actions on the desire to protect their own reputations, in order to keep them in the best light possible. Towards the beginning of the play, John Proctor sought to keep his good name protected, despite the fact it could have easily been tarnished if his secret affair with Abigail Williams had been found out. Because of this, he misses his opportunity to stop the group of girl's accusations because he'd rather preserve his own reputation then testify against Abigail. Eventually, he is forced to relinquish his good name to save his wife from being persecuted against for a crime she did not commit. When she is asked to back up her husband's confession, Elizabeth chooses to protect her husband's reputation rather than tell the truth about his affair. Because of this Proctor is eventually accused as a witch and is to hang. By the end of the play, right before Proctor's hanging is to commence, he is given the choice to sign a confession. The confession being that he was a witch, he trafficked with the devil, and that he saw other prosecuted witches trafficking with the devil. After much inner turmoil and debate he agrees to sign the confession, but refuses to give it to Judge Danforth or Judge Hathorne. He exclaims, "I have given you my soul; leave me my name!" asking that he be allowed to keep the paper and his reputable name. When they refused, claiming that they had to nail it to the church door so all of Salem Village may see, John rips it up. He will not allow his name to be tarnished, even if the only way to keep his good reputation is to die for a crime he didn't commit.

John Proctor had another, less bold principle he would rather die for than confess to a crime he did not commit. This principle was his personal integrity. He still wanted to save his name, but by the very end of the play it was for personal and religious reasoning, more than public. Proctor, being a highly regarded man in Salem Village, knew that his refusal to commit to the charge that he practiced witchcraft would cause people to question the Salem Witch Trials altogether, quite possibly even ending the trials once and for all. His refusal to give up his false signed confession and even going so far as to rip it to shreds, is a religious stand, but also a personal stand as well. Such a confession would dishonor his fellow convicted friends, such as Martha Corey and Rebecca Nurse, who were also brave enough to die as a testimony to the truth rather than satisfy the court with a false confession. Not to mention a false confession would also dishonor him, not just staining public reputation, but also his very essence. Proctor, without reservation, proclaims that the integrity he is showing will convince God to allow him into heaven. Thus when he goes to the gallows to be hanged, he has no fear of death, believing he will be forgiven for previous sins. After Hale begs Elizabeth to continue with trying to convince John to sign the confession, she responds, "He have his goodness now," and coldly finishes the play with, "God forbid I take it from him!" She realizes that John is now at peace with himself for the sins he committed in the past and feels that he needs to go through with this to get back his goodness and honesty, lost during his affair with Abigail.

It is my opinion that, yes, John's principles were worth dying for. In Salem Village, an individual's reputation plays an important role due to the fact that both public and confidential morals are both regarded and judged with equality. Thus the environment John was surrounded with, many were afraid of guilt by association.



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