John Proctor The Tragic Hero English Literature Essay
John Proctor’s fatal flaw was his great amount of pride, and that slowly tied a series of unfortunate events which eventually made John Proctor succumb to his death. Unfortunately, Proctor dies for a crime he did not commit. Another necessary part of the tragic hero is that he or she has a complete reversal of fortune brought by the hero’s own flaw. Proctor’s life completely turned upside down when Abigail accused his loved ones who then were sent to jail, or executed. At the end of every tragic play, the audience must feel pity or remorse for the deceased hero. This is also known as catharsis, which means purging of emotions. However these negative emotions are washed away because the tragic hero’s death is an example of the axiom of true Puritan values. John Proctor, a character in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, is a classic tragic hero because he contains all the elements of a tragic hero such as hamartia, peripeteia, catharsis, and despite not being born into nobility, he possesses many noble characteristics.
In The Crucible by Arthur Miller, John Proctor’s fatal flaw was his overwhelming hubris that made him eventually succumb to his death. Pride plays an interesting role in the life of John Proctor in The Crucible. As spoken by John Proctor near the end of the play, “Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worthy the dust on the feet of them that hang…leave me my name” (Miller 143). During the trials, Proctor refused to testify against Abigail in order to prevent his name from being blackened. He cares much for his name and being a noble character it is easy to understand the struggle he is going through. John daily wages an internal, war between his conscience and pride. His hubristic mindset is what primarily caused his downfall; a person who rises and falls because of their own ignorant flaw, which is the true meaning of a tragic hero.
In Act IV Hale urged everybody to confess to their sin in order to save their lives. While talking to Elizabeth he uttered, “It may well be God damns a liar less than he that who throws his life away for pride” (Miller 132). He was trying to get Proctor to confess his lie and save his life. John Proctor is throwing his life away for pride because he does not possess the courage to reveal his secret sin. God cannot forgive a man who dies for pride, yet he can forgive a liar. Thus, Proctor should confess to witchcraft. However, Proctor cannot do this because he cannot blacken his name. He’ll end up revealing his sin and it will be the end of his name. Pride is one of the seven deadly sins. At the very end of the play, Proctor is sent to death, and Hale implores to Elizabeth, “Woman, plead with him! Woman! It is pride, it is vanity. Be his helper!—what profit him to bleed? Shall the dust praise him” (Miller 145)? Hale yells these words at Elizabeth Proctor, because he was imploring her to convince John to plead guilty, but prideful Proctor chose to die instead with his honor intact. He chose to die as repentance for his original sin of adultery. This emphasizes that Proctor has overwhelming pride, and not even with the fear of death will he dare try to let go of it. As spoken by literary expert Brett Bigbie, “This pursuit of a worthy aim can be seen as Proctor’s hamartia” (page 1), Proctor indeed had obsessive pride and he sacrificed himself for cleansing his soul. The entire play began and ended with his flaw.
Upon John Proctor’s death in The Crucible, the audience let out a wave of emotions, which also gave an increase in their self knowledge. The true moment of catharsis was at the end of the play when John Proctor tore up the confession and allowed the self sacrifice of him, “Proctor tears the paper and crumples it” (Miller 144). Because of his sacrifice, Proctor became an example of good will and purity for others to follow. So the townsfolk have realized themselves that there is hope for redemption of their sins. Because Proctor stood up against corruption, the people have realized that there is goodness in this world and it is up to them to seek it. In order to gain knowledge, one must seek it. Elizabeth Proctor also felt a surge of emotion when Proctor tore up the confession. She too came to a realization of true goodness. “He have his goodness now, God forbid I take it from him” (Miller 145)! When Elizabeth uttered these words near John’s death, she knew that Proctor became a symbol of purity. And if she knew that Proctor had become good, then that means that Elizabeth herself had to realize what true goodness is. Reverend Hale shot out the most amount of catharsis in the end of the play. In the beginning, Hale comes into Salem a proud, scholarly man to analyze supposed witches. Through a period of time, he changed his ways and eventually became the man who pitied Proctor the most. Hale particularly was pouring out emotion right when Proctor was about to be hung, “Woman, plead with him! Woman! It is pride, it is vanity. Be his helper!—what profit him to bleed? Shall the dust praise him” (Miller 145)? Reverend Hale is very much aware that John was innocent of witchcraft. Hale values life very much and pities Proctor in an attempt to save his life. Reverend Hale came to the conclusion that John was indeed a pure man.
Another major part of the tragic hero is that the hero must experience a reversal of fortune, also known as peripeteia caused by their own flaw. The beginning of Proctor’s series of unfortunate events began when Abigail got Proctor’s loved ones in trouble with the court. When Proctor tells Abby near the beginning that no one must know of the secret sin, and that he cannot love her anymore, Abby becomes vindictive. So she accuses Proctor’s wife of witchcraft and she gets taken in by the marshals, “She walks out the door, Herrick and Cheever behind her” (Miller 78). Proctor became infuriated. John could not tell anybody of his affair with Abigail because it would soil his name and reputation. So John’s pride kept him from revealing his sin and as a result, his fortunes just got turned upside down. Near the end of Act II, Proctor is taken to jail, “Marshal, take him and Corey with him to the jail” (Miller 120)! His fortune is even worse now that he and Elizabeth are in jail. All because he still cannot muster the courage to reveal his sin.
The most common trait of a tragic hero is that they are noble birth; however despite John not being born into nobility, he possesses many noble characteristics. John Proctor was a noble man throughout The Crucible. When Elizabeth was taken to jail, Proctor infuriatingly questioned Mary Warren. He desperately yelled at her to tell the truth and in that desperation he told her, “My wife will never die for me! I will bring your guts into your mouth but that goodness will not die for me” (Miller 80)! Proctor stood up for his wife and was intent on protecting her at all costs. Specifically speaking, he was shielding her name from being blackened in the community. John Proctor was one of the only men in the play who abided for what was right in the Salem community. John Proctor respected all people in the Salem community, and stood up for everybody during his final hour, “I speak my own sins, I cannot judge another. I have no tongue for it” (Miller 141). Proctor refused to smear the names of his friends despite that revealing the other names would have saved his life. The righteousness that he bestowed upon them helps illustrate what a true noble person is. John Proctor only spoke for himself when referring to his sins. The same case happened when the court told John to sign the confession as bait to lure others in. Proctor bravely refused because it was his duty to claim the fate of others.
John Proctor perfectly fits the mold of a tragic hero because he harbors all the qualities of a tragic hero such as hamartia, catharsis, peripeteia, and is noble. John Proctor’s main fatal flaw was his excessive hubris, or pride which ultimately sealed his fate. Negative emotions are washed away because the tragic hero’s death is an example of the axiom of true Puritan values. The audience felt an extreme amount of pity when John Proctor died, however his death transformed their ways of thinking and increased their own knowledge. Another necessary part of the tragic hero is that he or she has a complete reversal of fortune brought by the hero’s own flaw. Proctor’s life completely turned upside down when Abigail accused his loved ones who then were sent to jail, or executed. John Proctor a man of great nobility and pride cleansed his soul after he suffered a tragic death, and became a symbol of purity and righteousness for others to follow.
WORKS CITED PAGE
Bhatia, Santosh. "Use of Irony in the Crucible." Bloom's Guides. Ed. Harold Bloom. New. New York, NY: InfoBase Publishing, 2010. 59-63. Print.
Bigbie, Brett. "John Proctor as a Tragic Hero in Arthur Miller's The Crucible." http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1759832/john_proctor_as_a_tragic_hero_in_arthur.html?cat=38 1 (2009): n.pag. Web. 10 Dec. 2010.
Centola, Steven R. "Possibility for Human Redemption in the Puritan Community." Bloom's Guides. Ed. Harold Bloom. New. New York, NY: InfoBase Publishing, 2010. 59-63. Print.
Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. New York, NY: Penguin Books USA Inc., 1976. Print.
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