2 John Proctor is tormented by an inner conflict throughout the play John Proctor is tormented by an inner conflict throughout the play. On one hand he desperately wants to redeem himself for his past sins. But, he is not willing to risk his reputation in order to redeem himself. He desperately tries to keep the affair with Abigail a secret, and this causes him to make a number of crucial errors which contribute to his downfall.
3 Crucial error 1- reluctance to go to court In Act One, Abigail tells him that she is lying about the influence of witches in the town. Thus, John knows that all the accusations that she goes on to make are false. Despite this knowledge, at the start of Act 2 he is not willing to go to court to reveal the truth about Abigail’s actions as he knows that the Court will discover his affair with Abigail. He allows many innocent people to be imprisoned because he is not willing to risk his reputation. By the time he decides to take action (at the end of Act Two), Elizabeth has been accused of witchcraft by Abigail and is arrested. He has lost control of the situation.
4 Crucial error 2- decision to rely on Mary’s testimony At the end of Act Two, John decides that he must go to court in order to save his wife from execution. However, in Act Three, he is still pre-occupied by his obsession with keeping the affair a secret: instead of going to court and explaining himself how he knows that the accusations are all false, he relies upon Mary’s testimony to undermine Abigail. However, Mary is not a good witness and she crumbles under questioning and Abigail’s manipulation. Thus, Proctor is left with no option but to admit the affair. His plan to protect his reputation by using Mary has backfired.
5 Not only is Mary an unreliable witness, but she becomes hysterical in the court room as a result of the bullying and manipulation of Abigail and the other girls. She eventually cracks and turns against Proctor, accusing him of forcing her to sign the deposition and she calls him “the Devil’s man”. This convinces Danforth that Proctor is in league with the Devil, and he has him arrested for witchcraft.
6 Thus, we can see that Proctor’s inner conflict causes him to make two crucial errors which ultimately lead to his arrest and execution.