Why John Proctor Is A Hero

A tragic hero would be a better term for John Proctor, the protagonist of the play The Crucible. According to Arthur Miller, a tragic hero is an average man with fault, one that leads to his own tragic downfall. In The Crucible, John Proctor is a common man and his descent (or downfall) stirs a sense of pity and sorrow in the reader; it is tragic, which is why he fits the parameters of a tragic hero set forth by Arthur Miller.

The fact that John Proctor was not some king from a faraway land, or a nobleman of his own community, satisfies the first requirement of being a tragic hero. In the play, wasn’t rich but neither was he poor; he had a wife and children; he served his community well and maintained the respect of his peers and his own dignity. This allows the audience to better relate themselves to him, empathizing with his situation and he is feeling. According to Aristotle, a true tragedy is one that stirs pity or fear in the reader\audience. This is done several times throughout the play, though is best represented through the use of Proctor’s tragic flaw.

At the end, Reverend Hale attempts to persuade Proctor to avow oneself and sign his name to be pardoned of his hanging. John Proctor refuses this offer, as he feels that it would denigrate his status and be a stain upon his dignity. In declining to sign his name, he in turn resigns himself to being hanged until dead. This is, without a doubt, his tragic flaw. Simply put, Proctor’s dignity and pride meant more to him than his life—and this is something that many people can relate to, and sympathize with (even if not to these exact extremes). And by holding onto the value of his dignity and pride, Proctor is able to die a virtuous man (one who is unwilling to compromise). This is what many consider a hero’s death.

By detailing the descent of a common man, the audience is able to better place themselves in the character’s situation and relate to his feelings, beliefs, and thoughts of the key matters of the story. Both John Proctor’s tragic fall and equally tragic death stir a sense of pity, fear, and compassion which are all of the ingredients needed for a tragic hero.

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