As the play first introduces John Proctor he takes on distinct frame of being. During the early part of the play John Proctor encounters Abigail and tells her, “Abby, you’ll put it out of mind. I’ll not be comin’ for you more. You know me better” (Miller, pg. 21). In addition to rejecting Abigail’s advances, this statement indicates that Proctor is happy in his current situation. This also symbolically represents Proctor’s mental state as his original characterization is presented. Another prominent aspect of Proctor’s perspective is understood through his take on witchcraft and religion as he tells Parris, “I have trouble enough without I come five mile to hear him preach only hellfire and bloody damnation” (Miller, pg. 28). Here Proctor is criticizing the current church services. On a larger scale, such statements are indicative of both Proctor’s tendency towards secularism, as well as a positioning of him against the communal hysteria. Ultimately, John Proctor at first constitutes a stolid individual with a distinct personality throughout the opening Act of the play. As the play advances it becomes clear that Proctor’s stolid demeanor experiences a change as he faces growing challenges from the town. During the court proceedings Abigail comes to accuse people including Proctor’s wife Elizabeth; she states, “I have seen my blood runnin’ out! I have been near to murdered every day because I done my duty pointing out the Devil’s people” (Miller, pg. 42). While this statement is indicative
of Abigail’s character, its far more revealing of Proctor’s because it shows he is unwilling to tell the court about his affair with Abigail as a means of discrediting her testimony. This dichotomy between Proctor’s stolid self and his internal dilemma constitute the central conflict he faces throughout the play. Later in the text Proctor changes his stance on this issue admitting, “I lusted, and there is a promise in such sweat! But it is a whore’s vengeance” (Miller, pg. 49). Here Proctor has drastically shifted perspectives as he has finally admitted his affair. Miller uses this central conflict and change as a means of communicating to the reader ethical and moral questions surrounding Proctor and the narrative; it’s an important change as it holds potential ramifications for the trial. Ultimately, it’s clear that Proctor experiences significant change as he faces increased challenges from the town. Towards the play’s conclusion Proctor experiences his most significant changes. As Proctor increasingly becomes the object of accusations he breaks down shouting, “A fire, a fire is burning! I hear the boot of Lucifer, I see his filthy face. And it is my face and yours, Danforth” (Miller, pg. 53). Here Proctor is responding to accusations from Danforth. The statement indicates that Proctor has gone from calm and objective to angry and hysterical. Proctor is placed in jail and Elizabeth visits him before he is to be hanged; he states to her, “I have given you my soul, leave me my name!” (Miller, pg. 57). While Proctor is still upset in this statement, it also demonstrates that he has achieved a level of piece with his upcoming death. In these regards, Proctor shifts to angry denial to death with integrity.