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The novel's protagonist is John Proctor, the young and energetic farmer who tries to enlighten the whole town on the ridiculousness of the trials. This upright man is one of the very few who, throughout the play, sticks to his beliefs convincingly and denies whatever charges have been leveled against him. He overcomes his guilt over his act of adultery and fears that it will be revealed to denounce Abigail Williams and the trials. When faced later with the opportunity to save himself by denouncing his friends, he chooses death, thus recovering his sense of goodness and denying his enemies of a victory over him. He represents, if not goodness, at least the perseverance which one requires to do good.
The antagonist is a combination of superstition and human weakness in the face of evil, authority, and social pressure. Proctor faces his own weakness in delaying doing the right thing, and Proctor and all the good citizens of the town must contend with the forces of jealousy, fear, and pettiness that cause their neighbors to succumb to the witchcraft hysteria.
Abigail Williams accuses Elizabeth, Proctor's wife, of being a witch. Proctor tears up the arrest warrant and orders the officers out of his house, but to no avail. As Elizabeth is led away, he realizes that he is to blame by not having denounced Abigail earlier. The climax occurs when he testifies against Abigail, even though it means the loss of his reputation. His testimony proves that Proctor’s conscience leads him to do what is right. This is reinforced at the end of the play when he tears up his confession, sacrificing his life for the good of the community and his own soul.Outcome
The play is a tragic comedy. John Proctor stands up for what is right, but is still executed. He and many other citizens of Salem, including Rebecca, are killed during the play. Rebecca, with her spirituality and immense faith in religion, never once succumbs to the pressures of her enemies to "confess." Proctor, on the other hand, faces one more moral crisis after bravely facing the court. At Hale's prompting, he signs a confession to save his life, but, when he discovers it will be used to denounce his friends, he tears it up. His final refusal to give in to evil solidifies his public reputation as a good man and allows him to die with a clean conscience, having done his duty.