At the end of the play The Crucible, John Proctor is faced with the decision of confessing to witchcraft although that would be a lie, or refusing to confess in which case he’d be hanged. If he confesses to witchcraft it would be more to him than just lying. He would be forced to live his life as if he had done something which, in his eyes, was evil. Ultimately, he makes the decision not to confess.
Yet it seems John Proctor still has mixed feelings about his confession up until the very end. He had been having an affair with Abigail, the leader of the girls who begin accusing others of witchcraft. Abigail accuses John’s wife, Elizabeth, and although witchcraft is a hanging offense she refuses to confess. When it is determined she is pregnant, her sentence is held off as they will not hang a pregnant woman. When his wife is jailed, John goes to the courts to tell them that Abigail is behind the lies that are getting people killed. In an act of desperation, he admits to the affair and his wife is brought in and questioned. He had admitted the affair to her and believes she will tell the truth. In an effort to save his reputation, Elizabeth denies hearing about the affair and John is sentenced to hang for witchcraft. Considering his three children and pregnant wife he originally chooses to sign a confession. He also doesn’t seem like he feels worthy of dyeing as a martyr perhaps feeling as if it is the easy way out of paying for his sins. Yet at the last minute he refuses to hand over the paper.
I think that whatever his struggles were in terms of leaving his family and not feeling like he should be able to die like a martyr, it really comes down to his concern for his soul. Given this was Puritan New England, the people at the time would have been highly religious and taken damnation of the soul seriously. Given these times and beliefs I think John Proctor was right in choosing not to falsely confess because based on his beliefs he would have been eternally damned for lying and giving a false confession that would have been used against others just to save himself. While he ends up being hanged, he dies with his soul intact. This would have been a difficult decision considering the family he was leaving to fend for themselves which wouldn’t be easy without a man in the house and because he and Elizabeth had both been tried as witches. But giving his background and the times he lives in refusing to confess was in his eyes, the only way to maintain his name, his soul and his goodness. So I think he was right in making that decision in order to at least leave his family with his name which hadn’t been ruined by a confession of witchcraft. This decision would have been consistent with his religious and ethical belief system. This made him a moral individual worthy of great respect even after he died. Even though I agree that life is precious that doesn’t mean it is always right to do anything necessary to survive, especially when the price is to damn you soul and be used as a means of harming others.