The Crucible, Relevance of John Proctor Refusing to Have His Confession Nailed to the Church Door

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Explain the significance of John Proctors refusal to have the confession nailed to the church door. Do you believe this makes him heroic? John Proctor is a tormented individual. He believes his affair with Abigail irreparably damaged him in the eyes of God, his wife Elizabeth, and himself. True, Proctor did succumb to sin and commit adultery; however, he lacks the capacity to forgive himself. Unsurprisingly, his relationship with Elizabeth remains strained throughout the majority of the play. He resents Elizabeth because she cannot forgive him and trust him again, but he is guilty of the same thing. In fact, his own inability to forgive himself merely intensifies his reaction to Elizabeth's lack of forgiveness. Offered the opportunity to make a public confession of his guilt and live, Proctor almost succumbs, even signing a written confession. However his immense pride and fear of public opinion compelled him to withhold his adultery from the court. “Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies!” Proctor utters these lines at the end of the play, in Act IV, when he is wrestling with his conscience over whether to confess to witchcraft and thereby save himself from the gallows. The judges and Hale have almost convinced him to do so, but the last stumbling block is his signature on the confession, which he cannot bring himself to give. In part, this unwillingness reflects his desire not to dishonor his fellow prisoners: he would not be able to live with himself knowing that other innocents died while he quaked at death’s door and fled. More importantly, it illustrates his obsession with his good name. Reputation is tremendously important in Salem, where public and private morality is one and the same. Early in the play, Proctor’s desire to preserve his good name keeps him from testifying against Abigail.

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