Holland Comp/Lit 11 (4)
December 16, 2013
What Makes and Breaks a Man
Courage and stupidity are so similar that the line that separates the two is the outcome.
During the Salem Witch Trials, a small Puritan town of Salem overreacts about the ‘witches’ in their town and hangs twenty villagers, accusing many more in the process. John Proctor is one of the many who were accused and hung in order to protect his family, friends, and soul. The
Crucible by Arthur Miller shows how Proctor is manipulated and changed through a series of constant battles against him and finally breaks into a man that has found his peace.
Before the Salem Witch Trials, John Proctor always had a quiet, simple Puritan life that was isolated from the main part of the village. But when the Salem Witch Trials came “[Elizabeth was] somewhat mentioned in court”(57) and Proctor’s life fell apart. Breaking a man requires someone to hit every important aspect of himself. In this case, Abigail Williams decided to pinch the wife. Proctor is scared of Abigail because he knows that she may charge Proctor with lechery. But, he knows if he doesn’t do anything, Abigail will take advantage and take Elizabeth’s life. During the court, Judge Danforth “pointing at Abigail..., this child would kill your wife?” (96).
This sort of pressure, where something is right but one is too afraid to face it because it might hurt them, was placed on Proctor. Knowing that a whore was controlling the town and ready to use everything against Proctor to hopefully make him love her, left Proctor had very few options.
When one is cornered, instincts kick in and the instinct is willing to put everything on the line to get one out of the threatening situation and hopefully save his life. Therefore, Proctor was perpetually pressured until he hit his breaking point and was unafraid to go all in.
Proctor is pushed and pressured so much that he is willing to give up everything to make things right. As Elizabeth Proctor, Proctor’s wife, was taken away the night before by Cheever,
Proctor goes to court to settle things. As the judges begin to side with the opponent, Abigail,
Proctor was pressured to release that “[he] has known her.”(102) This is Proctor’s breaking point and all of his cards are placed on the table and sees what will happen. When one takes something from a man that he has, he will do anything in his power to get it back. Him releasing this new information puts more than his life on the line, his reputation. A man’s reputation is more valuable than his own physical being. A name justifies how people associate with him, if at all, and how he is remembered. Without a reputation, a man is not a man, and therefore is more important than life itself. In the beginning, Proctor was an isolated, strong, loveless man.
Whoever, wifed, the wife only brought him grief and a cold house. But when she was taken away, Proctor becomes this mad man that is willing to give up everything he has to get her out.
Proctor’s break down to the point where he has nothing, other than his name. When Proctor signs the document saying that he is a witch, he exclaims, “I have given you my soul; Leave me my name!”(133) Proctor is so battered by every accusation that he admits, vocally, that he is a witch;however, refuses to sign the document. At this point, one can see how beaten-down
Proctor is and how vulnerable he has become. From a strong, isolated man, Proctor is manipulated by the court and town to become a helpless, vulnerable man that is willing to do everything in his power to just get back his old, peaceful life.
Being broken down and stepped on, Proctor comes back as a new man. When Proctor refuses to sign his name on the piece of paper that will save his life, Elizabeth states that, “he have his goodness now.” (134) Proctor stands up for what he believes in even though the consequences may cost his life. Proctor is accepting death and makes things