English III Period 4
4 November 2013
Arthur Miller’s The Crucible explores the guilt caused by the expectations to be perfect in the town of Salem. Miller, writing during McCarthyism and the Red Scare, is interested in the paranoia that is created by the investigation into a person’s most personal life. During the 1950s, McCarthy was attempting to rat out all of the communists. Miller connects that moment to the attempts in Puritan America to find all those Puritans who were not living the perfect life. The play’s protagonist, John Proctor was not perfect; he had an affair with Abigail Williams and she becomes the antagonist for John Proctor. However, a more frightening antagonist to proctor than Abigail is the Puritan community that he is trying to hide his identity from. Therefore, in Miller’s play, John Proctor faces two different antagonists: Abigail Williams and the Puritan Community.
In the play, Abigail is the antagonist to John Proctor because she carries the ability to ruin John Proctor’s reputation. As Proctor falls apart from his guilt by his affair, he tries to find a way to tell the truth, but Abigail continually persuades and manipulates him that she knows he “will come again with sweeter news for” her. She tells him that from “[himself] [she] will save [him]” (49-50). Although Proctor wants to reveal his sin and rid his conscience of guilt, Abigail tries to keep her spell over Proctor, subtlety telling him that he will destroy himself if he tells the truth. Abigail constantly attacks his sense of morality so that she can change his mind and maintain control of her dominance over him. Through her yearning for a sense of dominance, she identifies herself as the antagonist to John Proctor. Proctor, further, identifies Abigail as his enemy when he stands up in the court room and admits that he “lusted, and there is a promise in such sweat.” However he points to Abigail and says that his guilt “is a whore’s vengeance” (69). Proctor has now admit his sin and declares that he has given into his desires, but still he points to Abigail as the reason to why he has a sense of guilt. Abigail has power over Proctor because she has the knowledge of the sin that he has committed, and with that sin, she can bend Proctor in ways that can destroy him in the Puritan community.
Although Abigail is a major antagonist, there is a more significant antagonist to John Proctor, the Puritan Community because John struggles with trying to maintain the perception that he is a perfect Puritan man. As Proctor talks to Mary Warren, he discusses with her all the problems that lie within the city of Salem and all its corruptions. Proctor tells Mary that “we are what we always were, but naked now. Aye, naked. And the wind, God’s icy wind, will blow” (47). Proctor knows that Salem has always been a sinful community full of both hatred and fear. There was never one person in that community that ever lived as the perfect Puritan. Now those who were always sinful within the Puritan community have begun to show