A crucible has two definitions: 1) a container made of a substance that can resist great heat and 2) a severe test or trial. In The Crucible, John Proctor is representative of both of these definitions because of the situations that he must overcome and the people that he has to deal with. Abigail Williams, the ringleader of the “possessed” children, is the source of Proctor’s problems, and it is his challenge to attempt to win the battle against her and the unrelenting town. John Proctor can be considered to be a very strong man.
He is one of the few people in the town that refuses to believe that the children are actually possessed, and he shows no fear of expressing this belief to the courts and to the people of the village. “They”re pretending, Mr. Danforth! ” (Miller, 115) At this point, Abby and Susanna Walcott continue saying things such as, “Mary, don”t come down” and “She’s stretching her claws! ” (115) where after, Proctor immediately responds by declaring that they are lying. Throughout the course of the trial John persistently insists that the girls are liars; however, he cannot convince the court of this truth.
There are many other instances in the play that display John as a very bold man that must withstand a huge amount of pressure. A great example of his bravery is his determination to save his wife, Elizabeth, from being condemned. From the very moment she is taken away from their home, he is completely convinced that he will be able to rescue his wife. “I will bring you home. I will bring you soon I will fall like an ocean on that court! Fear nothing, Elizabeth” (77-78). He honestly believes that he will be able to handle the corruption of the blind court with his fairly weak evidence and arguments.
Another ongoing problem that John must overcome is his passion for Abigail Williams. Toward the beginning of the play, one can see the signs of weakness that John displays whenever he is speaking to Abby. However, after she continues to accuse innocent people of being witches, he quickly realizes what a horrible and truly disturbed person she has become. The reader can see how easily Proctor is able to resist her charms, for he knows what a pathetic and evil person she is. “If you do not free my wife tomorrow, I am set and bound to ruin you, Abby” (151).
It is evident that John has risen above his passion for Abby, and he shows here that he has become a stronger man by telling her that he will ruin her. However strong a man John proves to be, he is not indestructible, just like a crucible. One can definitely see the signs of his downfall after he himself is accused of assisting the devil. “I have been thinking I would confess to them, Elizabeth. What say you? If I give them that? ” (135). He changes from a man that seems to be able to withstand anything to a man that has been melted down by the heat and pressure of the trials.
John Proctor can also represent the second definition of a crucible: a severe test or trial. Throughout the entire play, he is destined to attempt to save his wife, the others accused, and eventually himself. His true test occurs at the end of the play when he must decide whether or not he should confess to aiding Satan. The reader and John know that he is innocent, but it is John who must choose life or death. He already believes that he is going to Hell because of his crime with Abigail; therefore, he is not afraid to be hanged.
Nevertheless, he is not ready to commit another crime and lie by confessing to something that he did not do. He knows that if he confesses, he will stain his name, and if the townspeople hear of his confession, then they will be at a complete loss. Many of them would probably think, “If John Proctor could be a wizard, then anyone could be a witch or wizard. ” John knows that he has to die in order to save others and to show that he will not crumble and admit to a charge in which he is innocent.
He is so determined to save his name and to explain what damage would be done if the town saw his signed confession that he causes a great commotion during his trial. “Beguile me not! I blacken when this is nailed to the church the very day they hang for silence! ” (143) Proctor also proceeds to declare that he has committed sins but he refuses to lose the dignity that is left in his name. “ because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life How may I live without my name?
I have given you my soul; leave me my name! ” (143) In the end, John Proctor tears his confession into pieces because he cannot live with the fact that he would be confessing to something that he did not do. He realizes that this decision will ultimately lead to his execution; however, he knows that he has to make this choice in order to show the world that this witch-hunt is ludicrous. Although Proctor is able to endure incredible amounts of pressure, he is still a human being who simply could not withstand the strain of the townspeople and his surroundings.