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Classic Tragic Hero Examples and Characteristics

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What sets apart a tragic hero from other main characters? Aristotle defined the term tragic hero as a protagonist who has habits leading to a mistake, causing their defeat. Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible is a tragedy that is fiction, yet based off of real events. John Proctor had the ability to stop fatal actions, however he faced a challenge which could have caused him new troubles. Does Proctor qualify as a tragic hero? Tragic heroes are important in literature because they are characters that many people can relate to and learn from. Tragic heroes have specific traits such as pride, along with having other individual flaws that add to the story. Every tragic hero as a result of their actions or lack thereof, which are discovered too late, resulting in an unfortunate fate. Although John Proctor struggles throughout the play, he is a tragic hero due to his pride and honesty which ultimately led to his downfall.

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Proctor is a character who is full of pride which is a quality all tragic characters have in common. The play takes place in 1692 which was a time when the amount of land someone owned showed wealth and power. Proctor says “If the crop is good I’ll but George Jacobs heifer” which shows the confidence Proctor has in his fortunes. Proctor’s reputation is important to him because mainly because he is well-respected for being a great father, and he also owns a large amount of land. A major issue Proctor has in the play is his struggle to protect his family’s image which causes him to struggle controlling his desires.

Another trait that Proctor shows, making him a tragic hero is lust. This is the start of Proctor’s fatal flaw which has a snowball effect. Proctor cheats on his wife, Elizabeth with Abigail. Although it isn’t said flat out in the play it appears to me that he cheated on Elizabeth because he was interested in Abigail, and Elizabeth was sick. It also doesn’t say exactly why Abigail accused Elizabeth of witchcraft, however I’d assume it was mainly because she had the power to catch Proctor’s attention. Due to Proctor and Abigails actions, both will later on struggle with honesty.

The last important characteristic Proctor shows of a tragic hero is both his honesty, and lack thereof. Proctor admits to having an affair with Abigail when he says “I have known her sir. I have known her”. This is an example of his honesty that couldn’t have been easy to admit. However Proctor also has acts of dishonesty such as when he confessed to witchcraft, he specifically says “Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name”. He confesses to protect himself, but shortly after stops his confession to be shown because he believes his name is too valuable. When he rips up his signed confession he redeems himself by showing his integrity even though he knows it would lead to his death. Proctor battles between right and wrong within the play.

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