The crucible is structured like a tragedy. This is because John Proctor becomes the tragic hero of the play. Honest, blunt-spoken, and upright, Proctor is a good man. However, he has one dark secret. His lust for their servant, Abigail Williams resulted in their extramarital affair. This created jealousy between his wife Elizabeth Proctor and Abigail, which eventually creates a domino effect of hysteria.
Upon the onset of the trials, Proctor discovers he has the power to stop Abigail’s terror onslaught through Salem. However, he must admit to his affair with Abigail. Making such a confession will ruin his good reputation, and above all, Proctor is a proud man who highly values his reputation. Eventually, he tries to stop her by convincing Mary Warren to make a testimony in which she was to reveal Abigail’s fraudulent activities without speaking about the most crucial details.
Upon his failure to stop Abigail, he eventually bursts out the sins he had secretly committed. However, Proctor discovers that it is too little too late. Matters have already gotten out of hand, and not even speaking the truth can dissolve the huge frenzy that Abigail has now capitalized on.
This situation is now tormenting him. He is certain that his extramarital affair with Abigail has destroyed him in God’s eyes, his self-respect, and Elizabeth, his wife. Indeed, Proctor gave in to the sin of adultery; but he is not able to forgive himself.
Just as expected, Proctor goes on to have a strained relationship with his with throughout most of the play. He harbors resentment for Elizabeth due to her inability to forgive and trust him once again. Nevertheless, he is guilty of the same crime. In essence, his inability to pardon himself only reinforces his reaction to his wife’s lack of forgiveness.
Apart from struggling under the weight of his transgression, the fact that he must publicly confess his wrongdoing intensely tortures him internally. His most treasured possession is the good reputation he has and the accompanying integrity & respect it attracts. Therefore, upon acknowledging his adulterous act, Proctor essentially labels himself an adulterer, thus losing his favorable reputation. He is extremely dreadful of revealing his secret transgression because he is already overwhelmed with regret and guilt. Proctor also feels that publicly displaying his sins will only exacerbate the graveness of the sin, effectively multiplying his criminality.
Proctor’s resolution to admit his adulterous affair in front of the court paradoxically demonstrates his noble character despite the fact that it led to his arrest and prosecution. He is willing to sacrifice his good reputation to save his wife from prosecution. Through publicly acknowledging his affair with Abigail, he eventually regains Elizabeth’s trust. At the culmination of the play, Proctor declines to defame himself though allowing his false confession to being nailed on the entrance to the church. This is a further manifestation of this character’s integrity. It also serves as an ideal personal as well as spiritual stance. Making such a grave admission will also be a big dishonor to his fellow convicts who are more than willing to perish as a testimonial to the truth. Proctor clearly understands that he will once again damn himself if he agrees to make a confession.
Furthermore, falsely confessing will also disgrace his soul as well as his public reputation. This serves as an implicit proclamation of Proctor’s belief that by sticking to integrity, he will finally make it to heaven. He chastises the court as well as its proceedings under full awareness of his grievous role in facilitating the unchecked growth of this fervor.
Proctor saves his soul, and as his final act, he denounces the witch trials. His intense pride and dread of public opinion forced him to hide his adultery from the public. However, towards the conclusion of the play, he shows more concern for his integrity as opposed to his reputation. Proctor still has a desire to clear his name. However, this time, he is doing it for spiritual and personal reasons instead of creating a favorable public image.
Despite his desire to live, he believes that living a lie for the rest of his days is not worth it. Realizing this fact in addition to forgiveness by Elizabeth helps proctor to eventually forgive himself and regain his good reputation as well as self-respect. While being lead to the gallows by the court officials, he finally finds inner peace for the first time within the play. As the play closes to an end, Elizabeth responds to Reverend Hale’s petition to persuade Proctor to make a public admission of sin by uttering the following words, “He has his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him.”