The Crucible is a story about dignity and morality, despite the adversities. The novel is set in the town of Salem, Massachusetts; when panic rose from the public because many people were being accused of witchcraft. Abigail Williams is a teen who, along with other girls, is discovered dancing and chanting in the forest. This provokes numerous accusations of witchcraft and sorcery. In order to avoid further punishment, Abigail and her friends confess to witchery and accuse other men and women of being “evil” as well. Consequently, the people accused are brought to trial despite the good reputation that most of them had maintained for years. These accusations introduce the main plot and conflict of this story: Abigail, realizing that she can turn the accusations in her favor, takes advantage of her credibility and accuses Elizabeth Proctor of witchcraft. Abigail thinks that by getting Elizabeth out of the way, Abigail might have a chance to be with her former lover, John Proctor. Although Elizabeth’s goodness and innocence are apparent, she is still brought to trial. This event fills John Proctor with a sense of purpose, who vows to prove Elizabeth’s innocence. The climax of the plot occurs when, attempting to free Elizabeth, John Proctor admits to the people present in that moment that he had committed an act of adultery with Abigail Williams. John Proctor is willing to sacrifice his own reputation to save his wife. However, his plan is ruined after Elizabeth, in an attempt to protect her husband, denies her knowledge of such an act. John Proctor’s plan ends up in ruins and he is incarcerated, also accused of witchcraft. During the resolution of the conflict, John Proctor decides that his values and morals are more important than his life. Therefore, Proctor ends up being hanged after refusing to confess to witchcraft.
John Proctor: John Proctor is a middle-aged farmer who lives near the town of Salem along with his wife Elizabeth Proctor and his servant Mary Warren. Proctor, who is smart and honest to the point that he might seem terse, is the protagonist of the story. John Proctor’s purpose as a protagonist is to attempt to reason with the judges presiding over the witch trials; his goal is to try to bring about justice not only for his wife, but also for the Salem inhabitants who were unfairly arrested. John Proctor is a round character, extensively described by Arthur Miller. He is also a complex character because he has virtues, but he also has a fatal fault that eventually leads him to his downfall. Proctor is portrayed as a “kind man-powerful of body, even-tempered, and not easily led” (19); however, he is also a sinner, for he has committed the act of adultery with Abigail Williams. John Proctor’s conflict is internal at first because he has to decide whether or not to expose his own sin in order to reveal Abigail Williams as a liar. He ultimately decides that he must tell the truth; consequently, Proctor encounters an external conflict among the judges, the girls accused of lying and him. The judges decide that they do not believe what John Proctor is saying and put him in jail, where another internal conflict surges for Proctor battling whether to confess to witchcraft and lose his dignity and his values or to hold his position and lose his life for it. John Proctor’s challenges enable him to be dynamic throughout the play; he shifts from insecurity of compromising his reputation to realizing the value of honesty. Proctor eventually chooses death over lies; is hung in the city square along with other prisoners who had also refused to confess to witchcraft.
Elizabeth Proctor: Elizabeth Proctor is the wife of John Proctor. She is a very self-righteous woman and she believes in always doing the right thing. She feels uncertain about her marriage and relationship with John Proctor. Elizabeth discovered the act of adultery between Abigail Williams and her husband; thus, she fired Abigail. Elizabeth Proctor is a secondary character because she has a certain degree of importance throughout the play. Elizabeth’s arrest triggers John Proctor’s resolve to expose Abigail William’s fraud despite risking his own reputation. Elizabeth is a flat character; she is not thoroughly described by Arthur Miller. She is not a complex character: no matter what happens throughout the story, Elizabeth always stays faithful to John. Elizabeth feels remorse against John for cheating on her, but she remains by his side despite his past actions; she is honest and “cannot lie” (103), but she denies John’s act of lust in an attempt to protect her husband’s name. Because Abigail Williams accuses Elizabeth of using poppets, Goody Proctor’s main conflict is external. Elizabeth tries to convince the judges that she did not try to kill Abigail Williams; however, evidence works against her and she is consequently jailed, where she reveals that she is pregnant. When John Proctor asks her whether he should confess or not, Elizabeth simply replies “It is not my soul, John, it is yours” (126). Elizabeth refuses to judge her husband and says that she’ll support him no matter his decision. Goody Proctor remains unchanged throughout the play causing her to be a static character; she is faithful to John from the beginning of the story to the end, where she expresses her belief in John Proctor’s inner goodness right before he is hanged. Elizabeth Proctor remarries four years after her husband’s death.
Abigail Williams: Abigail Williams is a beautiful seventeen-year-old orphan who is living with her uncle Reverend Parris. Abigail, who is very skillful at deception and dexterous at the art of lies, is the antagonist of the story. Abigail confesses to witchery and accuses Elizabeth Proctor, along with other people, of being a witch in order to get her lover -John Proctor-back and free herself from guilt. Abigail Williams constantly opposes John, always being against his values and ruining every attempt that he makes to expose Abigail’s scheme; she is convinced that her actions are for John Proctor’s good, as she tells him “From yourself I will save you” (143). As she is not vastly portrayed by Miller, Williams is a flat character. Abigail is not complex because she never shows any hint of goodness in her persona; she remains bitter and falsehearted throughout the story. As Abigail Williams creates a complicated plan, she has several external conflicts that she must deal with. She faces the opposition of all those people accused, including John Proctor, Elizabeth Proctor, and other habitants of Salem who believe that she is a liar. Although Abigail is entirely unreliable, she must put on a façade of sweet innocence to convince the judges of her truthfulness. In order to mislead the judges and take credibility away from her opposition, she accuses those who threaten her. She claims that she will cry out others “until the last hypocrite is dead” (141); however, it is evident in the story that Abigail is the actual hypocrite who accuses others of being sinners while she is one herself. Abigail William’s function as the villain of the story causes her to remain static throughout the play. As the story ends, Abigail still does not feel any remorse towards all the deaths that she had caused.
Mary Warren: Marry Warren is the current servant of the Proctors, hired after Elizabeth Proctor had fired Abigail Williams. Mary is a seventeen-year-old “subservient, naÃ¯ve, lonely girl” (17). Mary Warren is not a protagonist or an antagonist; she is a secondary character whose goal is to simply serve as a juror during the witch trials at Salem. Because she is not entirely described by Arthur Miller, Mary is a flat character. Mary Warren is also stereotyped; she is the classical helpless girl who does what everyone else tells her to do. Her actions are always predictable, she simply fulfills everyone else’s wishes as she is too afraid to stand up for herself. Mary has a major external conflict, because she has to deal with John Proctor, the judges, and Abigail Williams; however, she also has an internal conflict: there are so many people that tell her what to do that she cannot make up her mind on whose orders to follow. She knows that the lies that Abigail make her say are wrong and that she should confess her sins, but fear of Abigail and of any possible punishments make her stay silent while many people are sent to prison under charges of witchery. John Proctor got Mary Warren to admit that she was lying. However, Mary got too scared of Abigail, denied her previous confession and turned against Proctor at the last minute claiming that he was “the Devil’s man” (110). Mary Warren’s function as a symbol of fear and submission cause her to remain unchanged throughout the story, thus making her a static character.