By focusing on three or four scenes, examine Arthur Miller ‘s presentation of John Proctor’s moral journey. A crucible is defined in the dictionary as ‘a severe test or trial’. Throughout this play, John Proctor’s morals and beliefs are challenged to a great extent as we watch his character develop and admire his strength to do what is right whatever the consequences. A moral journey is the development of someone’s morals and beliefs as they are tested by certain situations and react to them in different ways.
I wouldn’t say it was a mapped out journey, more one that is likely to change without warning. Salem was a very religious and close-knit community. The strict creed meant that its inhabitants lived very monotonous lives and continuously feared doing wrong by God. Many people found they could not live with the pressures forced upon them by the church as religion was preached so vigorously and people were discouraged from forming their own opinion on life. This caused the community to become very repressed. The way everyone reacted to the accusations of witchcraft stem from this.
People suddenly became very paranoid of everybody else’s actions and also became suspicious that they may be a witch. They also used the right to call somebody a witch as vengeance. The fact that Proctor was willing to go against the church and the rest of the community to follow his views of descent conduct makes him stand out. I will be studying several extracts of the play to illustrate Proctor’s moral journey. John Proctor is often seen as the main character in the play and the first point where we are given any information about him is in the early stages of Act 1.
Here, Miller directly intervenes and provides us with a lengthy passage on John Proctor giving us information on his background and character. This is essential, as otherwise, we have no knowledge of his values before he enters the stage. Miller’s script: “But as we shall see, the steady manner he displays does not spring from an untroubled soul. He is a sinner, a sinner not only against the moral fashion of the time, but against his own vision of descent conduct. ” This quote also backs up the idea that John does not need to be punished for sins he has committed, as he is his own worst critic.
At first Miller portrays him in a harsh light. When he enters in the first act, he reprimands his servant for not being at home helping Elizabeth and orders her to go immediately. The stage directions here allow us to see the effect of John on others. He obviously has a sense of authority as Miller describes Mary Warren’s reaction when he enters the room as follows: ‘She can barely speak for embarrassment and fear’ After the departure of Mary, John is then left alone with Abigail and Miller presents us with a scene full of hurt, desire and tension. Abigail is a very useful character when analysing John’s morals.
She is very manipulative and tests his will power to reject her. John, at first, is not aware of Abigail’s determination to win his love. He says impulsively some things that Abigail interprets in her own, yet wrong, way. She then seems very confident about what she is saying and feels she is being lead on. Proctor: “Ah, you’re wicked yet, aren’t y’! (A thrill of expectant laughter escapes her, and she dares come closer, feverishly looking in his eyes)” The stage directions at this point are very important, as they are essential in the understanding of how Abigail is feeling.
After this move of Abigail’s, John realises that she is serious and is still holding hope for him. He decides to put this right by making it quite clear to her that he is not willing to continue their relationship. Proctor: “Abby I may think of you softly from time to time but I will cut off my hand before I reach for you again. ” This shows that Proctor has learnt from his mistakes and although he is tempted, he is not willing to commit the same sin again. This is quite extreme for him to state and shows that he is serious about what he is saying.
It is also evident from the stage directions that John is ‘(angered-at himself as well). ‘ This shows that he has admitted to himself that he was wrong and now he is feeling guilty and angry with himself for all the trouble he has caused in his relationship with Elizabeth. The stage directions are very powerful in this extract as they show the characters emotions and they explain the situation well. This extract shows a very important part of John Proctor’s moral journey as he manages to resist Abigail’s advances. It must have taken a lot for him to do this, as it would be hard both mentally and physically for him.
This shows how his character is starting to develop as he has learnt from previous experiences and is beginning to face and correct his sins rather than just ignoring them. The next extract I will be examining is in the early parts of Act two. This is set eight days on from the last scene and there is a very different atmosphere. Instead of passion and heat, this scene is awkward and tense. It shows how Proctor is not being honest with his wife, Elizabeth, and instead there is a lot of pretence. This is an important time in Proctors moral journey as it shows us how he is coping with his relationship with Elizabeth.
It is evident that Proctor is still in denial and is not facing up to his actions. He doesn’t realise that the lies and secrets he is keeping will affect so badly what happen in future events. At the beginning of this Act, Miller sets the scene effectively using stage directions. He describes the room as ‘low, dark, and rather long living-room of the time’. This immediately changes our mood and calms us down in anticipation of a more sombre and serious scene. In this scene dialogue, as well as stage directions, play a very important part in portraying the characters feelings.
The stage directions especially help us to interpret how certain lines should be said (as this is a play) and how characters should act. Proctor is not truthful to Elizabeth in this scene. He firstly lies about his interview with Abigail as he feels she won’t understand. He tells her that he has been working on the farm in hope that he will sympathise with him. This is part of his moral journey as it shows he is still in denial and feels that time will sort his problems out. He is prolonging the consequences of his actions that he knows one day he’ll have to face.