The Foolish Death of John Proctor in The Crucible by Arthur Miller

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John Proctor's Death as Foolish in The Crucible

In Arthur Miller's The Crucible, John Proctor, a proud and frustrated farmer of Salem, chooses to die rather than to give a false confession to witchcraft. Many might view this act as that of a selfless martyr; on the other hand, it can more readily be seen as the height of human stupidity in the face of vanity and pride.

John Proctor is, at first, willing to offer up a false confession that his life may be spared. Inevitably, John Proctor possesses that fateful attribute known to fall fatal to many human beings - pride. While he has, indeed, been ashamed of his many sins throughout his life, Proctor's soul still clings to his pride and his good name, however soiled it may have
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This is his vanity, so chastened by his earlier resolutions lashing back at him. If Proctor had continued with his earlier resolve, he would most likely have accepted this humiliation along with everything else, declaring it another blot on his already black soul. As it happens, though, he proudly refuses to sign his confession,

Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies!
Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul, leave me my name! (133)

Human pride has it's grasp on John Proctor once more; it demands one last shred of dignity to live for, a shred of dignity that it boldly refuses to live without, boldly and foolishly, foolishly because the loss of this life will throw others into turmoil. How important is a good name when children starve? How important, even to a Puritan, is his good name when his wife will be left with nothing? John Proctor here makes his decision to turn from the wisdom of saving his life and heads down the path of his own destruction.

Now John Proctor reverses his inner arguments between his sense and his pride. He begins to convince himself now that his vanity is more important than his life; that life is not worth living without a certain amount of pride and dignity.
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