The Crucible

The Crucible

Explain the constraint between John and Elizabeth. How may it affect John's decision to talk with Cheever?

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While the first act takes place in the "public" setting of Reverend Parris' home, the second act moves into what should be considered the private sphere of the Proctors' home. The conversation between John and Elizabeth Proctor is highly mundane, illustrating the significant tension remaining in the relationship since Proctor's affair with Abigail Williams. Elizabeth Proctor is intensely suspicious of her husband, worrying when he arrives at home late for dinner and adopting a condescending tone when her husband admits that he was momentarily alone with Abigail Williams. Miller establishes Elizabeth Proctor as a morally upright woman, respectable and dignified, yet with an air of superiority that renders her frigid and distant. Proctor feels that Elizabeth has made her home into a repressive atmosphere, continually punishing her husband for his wrongdoing. Still, if Elizabeth adopts a tone of moral superiority it is because she is the superior of her contemporaries, with an unwavering belief in the capability of persons to remain moral.

When Cheever questions Proctor, John is unable to recall the commandment against adultery – it is a moment of humor, but it also reflects the crisis of the Proctor marriage. Miller seems to indicate that, like the rest of their Puritan society, the Proctors need an outlet to expiate John's sins and without this means for redemption they are committed to a perpetual obsession with past infidelity.