A belief is the acceptance and faith that a statement is true. When someone is struggling with something, they are having difficulty managing a minor or major problem. Have you ever encountered a period in your life where you endeavored with your own personal judgements or principles? The Crucible by Arthur Miller is a play that starts in the year of 1692 in the town of Salem, Massachusetts, where the Salem witch trials had taken place in. The Salem witch trials were a set of various trials, prosecuting victims accused of witchcraft. These trials were caused by a group of young girls sneaking out into the forest one night to what they describe as “dance.” These trials gave people the opportunity to defend themselves against witchcraft and to accuse other people. Life for Puritans in 1692 was very restricted: they refused to show any emotion, as part of their religious beliefs. The protagonist of this play is Salem citizen, John Proctor. Throughout The Crucible, John struggles deeply within his own beliefs, creating various internal conflicts for himself. These internal dissonances help form the base and structure of this work. Many important characteristics of the play–including characters, personal or religious beliefs, etc.–take part in the relevancy of John’s struggles.
Through the context of Act Three, John struggles mostly within his beliefs and reputation. John has to make the decision whether to reveal his “secret” to the court or not. John’s “secret” affair with Abigail could permanently ruin his reputation forever; yet he decides to reveal it to save his wife Elizabeth’s reputation. John says to Danforth, “But it is a whore’s vengeance, and you must see it; I set myself entirely in your hands” (Miller 110). He is basically confessing to the affair at this point. If Elizabeth were to say that she did not know about the affair, she would be hanged. He thinks saving his wife’s life is more important than saving his own reputation, but Elizabeth says she did not know about the affair, which is a lie: she was saving his life instead of hers. Danforth asks Elizabeth angrily, “To your own knowledge, has John Proctor ever committed the crime of lechery?” and she faintly responds with a simple “No, sir” (Miller 113). This shows that she has clearly lied about knowing about the affair to save John’s reputation. Act Three is an example of how John struggles with his own acceptances and strifes, with relevancy of reputation.
Similar to Act Three, Act Four focuses more on John’s judgements and integrity. This act takes place on the morning of John Proctor’s execution. Before he is hanged, Elizabeth agrees to convince John to confess to witchcraft. Once this happens, John is tempted to confess; he says he’s already damned after his affair with Abigail, yet determined to be a good husband and father to his and Elizabeth’s unborn child, and so he struggles with those two choices. John says, “I want my life. I will have my life…I think it is honest, I think so; I am no saint” (Miller 138). He is saying that he is basically not perfect, but he still wants to live and confess to witchcraft. He then decides that he is incapable of any good, but he still sees the good inside of him, so he is okay with being hanged and ending his life. Proctor says emotionally, “I do think I see some shred of goodness in John Proctor…show honor now, show a stony heart and sink them with it” (Miller 144). This shows that John sees the good inside of him, yet still wants to show bravery and honor by being hanged. In Act Four, John is conflicted with the choices that define his probity: to confess and not be hanged or to confess and be hanged, which is quite important to the plot of this play.
Finally, in the play overall, John seems to be struggling with his own guilt. Throughout the acts, John deals and conflicts with the guilt of having an affair with Abigail that he did not want to have. John says to Abigail, “Abby, I may think of you softly from time to time. But I will cut off my hand before I’ll ever reach for you again. Wipe it out of mind. We never touched, Abby” (Miller 23). This clearly shows that John regrets ever sleeping with Abigail and wants not only himself but Abigail to forget all about it. He wants to have a stable relationship with his wife, Elizabeth, but she just cannot trust him after what had happened. Elizabeth says to John, “You are not open with me. You saw [Abigail] with a crowd, you said” (Miller 55). Elizabeth states here that she does not think John is always open and honest with her. Because of this trust issued relationship, the guilt of that one night hangs over John’s head and will not go away, no matter how hard he tries. This is important to the plot of the play; he is struggling with the fact that he wants to be a better husband to Elizabeth, but she just cannot trust him. The overall context of the play shows how John is continuously conflicted with regret and culpability.
All through The Crucible by Arthur Miller, John is deeply conflicted with belief, integrity and guilt: deciding whether or not to end his life, save his wife, and just overall feeling guilty after holding a regrettable one-night-stand with Abigail, and attempting to gain his wife’s trust back. These struggles make a huge contribution to the overall meaning of the play, which shows their importance. The Salem witch trials made a massive mark in history, and John Proctor and his own principles and beliefs took part in making this history.