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A look at the pure versus tainted love in The Crucible

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The concept of redemptive and destructive love is common in all modes of texts, no matter the location or the time period. This is because love itself is timeless; it is a moving force that pushes people to act, an emotion which can cause both birth and destruction, a concept that evolves and intrigues people, and an emotion that all kinds of people can relate to and feel empathetic for. An example of this would be the modern tragedy The Crucible (1953) by Arthur Miller, who integrated the two concepts seamlessly into a compelling depiction of a destructive and redemptive love during the Salem Witch Trials. This can be noted through the use of characters such as John Proctor, whose destructive love turned him to another woman, Elizabeth Proctor, whose redemptive love turned her husband to the gallows, and Abigail Williams, whose redemptive love turned destructive in the light of Proctors wish to redeem himself to his wife. This sullied love affair became the foundations for the destruction of rationality within the town of Salem, Massachusetts, and what later led to John Proctors redemption through his sacrifice. It is in light of these three characters that this concept truly comes to fruition.

As a character who depicts both destructive and redemptive love, John Proctor brings both a calm and urgent quality to the play through his affiliation with both his wife, Elizabeth, and his old mistress, Abigail. This can be noted as Proctor appears in court, appealing to Danforth and Hathorne in hopes of calming the discourse in the town and to redeem his wife’s good name, even forsaking his own to do so: “I have known her, sir. I have known her”, and “A man will not cast away his good name” – John Proctor, Act 3 These two lines, among a few others, portray the sheer power of Proctors redemptive love for his good wife, Elizabeth, which pushed him to act, balancing out the dark destructive love that had seduced Proctor and Abigail prior to the beginning of the play. It is also imperative to note the irony surrounding Proctor’s importance in the plot, as despite his entry to the Court to quell Salem’s madness; it was his own corroding affair with Abigail which led to the destruction of the Town’s morality, as well as the sacrifice of his fellow villagers and good friends to redeem the town in the eyes of God. This can be explored in the following lines: “I know you clutched my back behind your house and sweated like a stallion whenever I come near! … I saw your face when she put me out, and you loved me then and you love me now!” – Abigail Williams, Act 1, and “She thinks to dance with me on my wife’s grave! And well she might, for I thought of her softly. God help me, I lusted, and there is a promise in such sweat. But it (the accusations against his wife and the others accused) is a whore’s vengeance…” – John Proctor, Act 3 However, this isn’t to say that Proctor’s destructive love was the only cause for the uproar in Salem, nor was this destructive love that led to Proctors sacrifice. Whilst the eroding love he shared with Abigail was definitely a driving force in the play, the destruction of the Town was brought on by all of its members; the girls who lied to protect their names, the men who accused others out of spite, and the greedy neighbors who grasped for the wealth of their fellows all had their parts to play, all pawns in their own destruction. And whilst he was set to hang because of his gnawing lust, it was because of his redemptive love for his wife and his family that he committed himself to be judged by God. “I have three children – how may I teach them to walk like men in the world, and I sold my friends?” John Proctor, Act 4, and “Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies!” – John Proctor, Act 4 This excerpt expressively shoulders Proctors strong, undeterred redemptive love, and although giving birth to his death, it is one of the very crucial defining moments of his character during the play. It is in such circumstances during the play that John Proctor’s destructive and redemptive love truly becomes apparent, and as stated by Elizabeth, despite his many faults and mistakes, he truly is a “goodly man”.

Alternately, Elizabeth Proctor’s depiction of destructive and redemptive love is mainly portrayed through interactions with her husband, where traces of their cold love and of John Proctor’s betrayal often plague their endearing redemptive love. Examples include the following: “Because it speaks deceit, and I am honest! But I’ll plead no more! I see how your spirit twists around the single error of my life, and I will never tear it free!” – John Proctor, Act 2, and “You’ll tear it free – when you come to know that I will be your only wife, or no wife at all! She has an arrow in you yet, John Proctor, and you know it well!” – Elizabeth Proctor, Act 2 This shows that like the town, suspicion and distrust has also imbedded itself between the married couple; John Proctors destructive love with Abigail poisoning the redemptive love he shares with his good wife, Elizabeth. However, Elizabeth’s redemptive love never left, despite Proctor’s affair with Abigail and its repercussions. Throughout the novel she has been portrayed as loyal and fair wife, her own love for Proctor redeeming her prior coldness to him and altering their once destructive love. For example, in the Fourth Act, she openly states the following: “John, I counted myself so plain, so poorly made, no honest love could come to me! Suspicion kissed you when I did; I never knew how I should say my love. It were a cold house I kept!” – Elizabeth Proctor, Act 4 This alludes to her metamorphosis, using a metaphor to accentuate her uncertainty and her feelings of wretched plainness juxtaposed to Abigail’s youthful appeal. Her love for Proctor was so powerful in its faith that she even goes as far as to state that she would not judge Proctor whether he decided to lie or die, believing him to be a good man. “I cannot judge you, John”, “Only be sure of this, for I know it now: Whatever you will do, it is a good man does it”, and “He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him! – Elizabeth Proctor, Act 4 It is because of her strength and conviction in her redemptive love that she is able to farewell her husband, leaving him to be judged by God and only God. It is also through the strength of her blind faith that she was able to redeem their sullied love in the first place, finally being able to place their discourse in the past, even as destruction awaits. It is through such scenes in the Play that Elizabeth Proctor’s redemptive love rightly bears fruit.

Lastly, Abigail Williams, the youthful mistress of John Proctor and the instigator of the widespread hysteria during the Witch Trials. Whilst Abigail’s love for Proctor began as a passionate, redemptive love, it soon eclipsed into what is noted throughout most of the Play: an embittered, destructive love. In the first Act, there is a passage which may have resembled what they had shared merely eight months prior to the beginning of the Play; witty banter, suggestive smiles and an underlying layer of sexual tension. This may be explored in the following quotation: “We were dancin’ in the woods last night, and my uncle leaped in on us” – Abigail Williams, Act 1, “Ah, you’re wicked yet, aren’t y’! You’ll be clapped in the stocks before you’re twenty” – John Proctor, Act 1 When taken into account, it is understandable that Abigail would feel embittered and betrayed by Proctors sudden laps in interest with her, however, being young seemingly crowned her insolence, a notion that Proctor agreed with as he called her “child”. Blaming his wife, she went on to say the following in hopes of keeping hold of their redemptive love: “I look for John Proctor that took me from my sleep and put knowledge in my heart… And now you bid me tear the light out of my eyes? I will not, I cannot! You loved me John Proctor, and whatever sin it is, you love me yet!” – Abigail Williams, Act 1 And so begins the transition from redemptive to destructive, from thriving to deteriorating, juxtaposed to Proctors love with Elizabeth, which transits from death to rebirth. In hopes of “dancing upon the grave” of Elizabeth with her husband, Abigail put herself in the Queen’s position and orchestrated a war against Elizabeth, using the townspeople as her pawns, the young girls as her knights and the courtroom as her fortress, all to protect her love for John Proctor, the King of the Chessboard. However, all efforts turned to dust upon Proctors failed accusations upon her; instead of removing Proctor’s wife to be with him, he was instead removed, their destructive love reaching its climax. “For them that quail to bring men out of ignorance, as I have quailed, and as you quail now when you know in all your black hearts that this be fraud – God damns our kind especially, and we (Proctor and Danforth) will burn, we will burn together!” – John Proctor, Act 3 It is out of guilt, fear and her childish unwillingness to own up to her sins that led to her escape from Salem, her destructive love having already destroyed all of the Towns redeemable qualities, as well as her first love and the lives of many innocents sacrificed out of vengeance. It is through this transition of light to dark that we truly get an understanding of Abigail’s character, and as attested by John Proctor, they really were “pulling Heaven down and raising up a whore”.

Thus The Crucible seamlessly presents the concept of redemptive and destructive love in a thought-provocative re-telling of the Salem Witch Trials. The Author used characters such as John Proctor, who turned from his mistress to redeem his relationship with his wife, Elizabeth Proctor, whose redemptive love turned her silent as she watched her husband walk to his death, and Abigail Williams, who turned her back on Salem in an act of vengeance, her destructive love turning Salem into a hotbed of greed and lies. It is through this concept that we get a view of the wider picture; love’s timeless allure, its forceful power, its altering affect and its empathetic nature. Although the soiled love affair between John Proctor and Abigail Williams became the foundation for the hysteria in Salem, it is John Proctor’s redemptive love with his wife Elizabeth which readers and watchers alike will empathize with for years to come.

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GradesFixer. (2018, May, 10) The Crucible – Pure vs. Tainted Love. Retrived December 19, 2018, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-crucible-pure-vs-tainted-love/
"The Crucible – Pure vs. Tainted Love." GradesFixer, 10 May. 2018, https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-crucible-pure-vs-tainted-love/. Accessed 19 December 2018.
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