Often in literature, character relationships change and evolve. Choose one character in The Crucible whose feelings toward another character change during the course of the play. Write an essay in which you explain how the character’s feelings changed, why they changed, and how this change affects the work as a whole.
In The Crucible such a character is John Proctor who is a farmer and has a wife Elizabeth but he has sexual relationships in secret with Parris’s 17 year-old niece Abigail Williams. This is a secret affair since it is with a married man. But since the affair has been going on for a while and they do not seem to want to leave each other, then it can be concluded they were truly in love even though they tried to hide it.
An example of the secrecy they keep is when at one time Parris catches her niece in the bushes and there are clothes of Abigail and John spewed on the bushes. He does not talk to them but leaves and goes away. Later on when Abigail comes back home and her uncle confronts her about the bush episode; Abigail denies it vehemently saying “no one was naked! You mistake yourself, uncle!” (Miller and Blakesley, 8).
In the second act, John’s openly discloses his love for Abigail though in a shocking statement that implicates his lack of strong feelings for his wife Elizabeth. John tells Abigail “…hopes to dance with me upon my wifes grave” and marry you Abigail (Miller and Blakesley, 43).The conclusion about their love remains so for a while though things start changing and the secret affair goes sour.
John Proctor however soon discovers Elizabeth is pregnant and is torn between staying with her for the sake of the children (since he proclaimed himself a gentleman) and remaining in a relationship with Abigail. Staying with Elizabeth would mean an end to his secret affair and relationship with Abigail. He chooses the later though that was because he thought Elizabeth was in danger which he later got to find out he wasn’t.
Things however start to change dramatically for the lovers when Abigail, Parris’ slave Tituba and other adolescent girls start naming people in their area as being witches and being responsible for deaths of children and even the weird behavior going on with others like with Parris’s daughter Batty Parris. Those named are taken to jail and later on after confessing they are hanged.
The most unfortunate thing happens and John is also named as a witch by the adolescent girls in Abigail’s group. John is devastated and shocked by such accusations and especially when they come from Abigail his secret lover. He therefore decides to also shame her by publicly announcing and telling about their secret affair. This spells the end to this relationship though later on Abigail who claims to still love John tries to help him with the witchcraft case.
The disclosure of the secret relationship shames not only Abigail and him but also his wife Elizabeth (who even though had been suspecting it had no concrete confirmation) and also the reverend Parris’ household in general. The disclosure of the relationship also changes the turn of the story from the love theme to focus on the witchcraft accusations John is facing and which he is pressured to confess to (Miller and Blakesley, 100).
John is jailed and as the norm of that society has become, he is pressured to confess about his witchcraft. Even though his conscience is clear and he is sure he is not a witch, the pressures on him are just too much and at one point he even signs the confession. He decides to sign after his wife comes to visit him and tells him that she has forgiven him for all he has done in the past (referring to the secret illegitimate affair and the witchcraft) and he should just confess to the accusations just like everyone else does.
The discussion with his wife convinces him to sign but he tears it up before it is collected the following morning and declares him of such an atrocity (Miller and Blakesley, 114). John’s reasoning in this final act is that if he confesses to being a witch, he will have shamed his family (wife and children) and they will be always scorned upon and he will be hanged for a crime he did not commit, on the other hand, if he refuses to confess (which he refused to confess), he will die but it will be a dignified death and his family will not have to encounter shame from the rest of the society. John therefore refuses to confess and he later dies though it is a dignified death having implicated no one and having his conscience clean and clear to the end (Miller and Blakesley, 142).
Miller, A. and Blakesley, M. (1953). The Crucible. New York: Heinemann.