trajcruThe Crucible: A True Tragic Hero? Crucible EssaysA True Tragic Hero?
According to Websters New Standard Dictionary of the English Language, the definition of a hero is a man of distinguished bravery; a principal figure in a story. (127) A tragic hero is a hero of a tragedy, more specifically a person who either dies in the story or is defeated in a struggle with evil. The heros downfall is usually brought upon his or herself by an error in judgment or a tragic flaw. A hero is overcome by evil, but in the course of the struggle, the hero gains self-knowledge and wisdom. The question to be answered in this essay is whether John Proctor of Arthur Millers The Crucible is truly a tragic hero, or not. Because of his error in judgment, the fact that he is overcome by evil, and his courageous downfall, John Procter proves to be a true tragic hero. (Elements 612,1182)
It is thought by many that the errors in judgment made by John Procter are the main reasons behind the Salem Witch Trials. First, and perhaps the most important event of the play, is Johns sin of adultery. In fit of passion John strayed from his sick wife and found himself in the barn with Abigail Williams, his teenage house servant. His wife, Elizabeth, learned of his infidelity and forgave him, but he never forgave himself. In addition, Abigail was in love with John and believed that he had feelings for her also, but John was happy with his wife. Abigail, also known as Abby, and some of her friends went to the forest to conjure the Devil, and then drank a charm to kill Elizabeth. That was how the whole thing got started. Abby thought that if his wife was dead and out of the picture, John would come running with open arms. Abby knew of only one way to kill Elizabeth and that was through the devil and attempted witchcraft. However, it is ironic that in the end Elizabeth lives and John is the one to die. Furthermore, John knew that the girls had been dancing in the forest, and Abby told him that it was all sport, that it was all fun and games. John knew that Abby had been up to no good but he didnt try to stop the girls from lying about the many people they claimed to see with the devil. He allowed to them go on accusing innocent people when he knew that they were lying. John certainly made a few errors in his judgment and he had to pay for them.
John eventually was forced to battle evil and was defeated. For example, when Elizabeth was arrested for witchcraft, John knew that it was time to take action. He went to Danforth and the court, with Giles and Mary Warren to prove Abigails fraud. John brought Giles with a petition stating that both Elizabeth and Giles wife, also accused, were warm, gentle people, and could not possibly be witches. He brought Mary to admit that she and the girls made everything up. After Danforth refused the petition, John confessed to adultery in order ruin Abbys saintly name and appearance. John had no other choice. Admitting to adultery was the only way to prove that Abby had a motive to lie. What better a reason than revenge? She sought revenge upon Elizabeth, because Abby believed that Elizabeth was the only thing stopping John from being with her. Abby should have placed the blame correctly upon John. It was not Elizabeths fault. Unfortunately, Abby persuaded the court to believe Proctor was lying. Left with no other choice, Proctor urged Mary Warren to confess that she and the other girls had been lying the whole time. Mary tried to tell the truth, but Abby accused Mary of witchcraft and that she was sending out her spirit upon the girls. Mary then weakened, returned to the Abigails side, and proceeded to accuse Proctor of witchcraft. In the end, John was left helpless. Danforth sided with Abigail and threw Proctor into jail to wait for his hanging. Abigail won. John Proctor did every thing that he could to prevent the hanging of his wife and then was thrown in jail himself, accomplishing nothing.
John waited in jail until the day of his hanging, and he did hang, but he hung with courage. First, before he hung, Proctor was offered an out, a way to save his life. All he had to do was falsely confess to witchcraft, which would promise him life in jail, and a condemned soul. John was faced with a very hard decision, to live and dishonor his name and family, or to die a falsely accused man. Second, Reverend Hale tried to convince John to confess and save himself. John knew that confessing to something he didnt do was lying, and that it would only make his after-life worse. So he asked Elizabeth what she would do, but she only told him to follow his heart and that she was 100 percent behind him. Third, he decided to falsely admit to witchcraft, he wanted hi life. However, when asked to sign a confession document, he did, but then he took it and ripped it up. He couldnt stand for his family to be dishonored with his lie. He would rather die than have his family name thrown about in dishonor, that takes guts. Also, John couldnt let the other innocent victims hang while he lied to live. John Proctor stood up for what he believed in, even if the result was death, that is courageous.
John Proctor fits the description of a tragic hero perfectly. He suffered from his bad decisions, which were the causes of the trials. He was defeated by Abby, a true symbol of evil. He died for what he believed in. He certainly made mistakes, and he paid for them with his life. No one is perfect, many are courageous, but few are heroic. John showed his heroism by taking responsibility for his mistakes, risking his life in the battle against evil, and doing none of it out of selfishness. John wasnt trying to save himself, blackening his name did no good for him. John stood up for the innocent people that were wrongly accused. John Proctor is as true a tragic hero as they come.
Anderson, Robert, et al. Elements of Literature: Fifth Course. US; Holt, Rinehart
and Winston, Inc. 1993.
Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. New York, New York; Penguin Books. 1976.
Websters New Standard Dictionary of the English Language. New York, New
York; PMC Publishing Company, Inc. 1995.