Though willing to admit to such an action on his own behalf, he refuses to allow the mass hysteria occurring in Salem to force him into signing a statement that he knows to be a lie (Blaney, 15).
John Proctor, in the view of theater critic Retta Blaney (15), is a man who does not tolerate a fool well. Knowing that he has sinned by consorting with a woman who was not his wife, Proctor refuses to allow his guilt over this sin to be compounded by whistleblowing on his neighbors who also have been accused of consorting with the devil. In this manner, an ordinary man who Miller (1, p. 132) maintains wants his life suddenly realizes that life without dignity is not tolerable.
Part of the problem that confronts the ordinary man known as John Proctor is that he cannot reconcile his guilt with his need to stand well in his community. When his wife, Elizabeth, is taken to stand trial for witchcraft, Proctor recognizes that what has occurred is the result of jealousy directed at his wife by the young woman with whom he has been involved. Proctor vows "I will fall like an ocean on that port (Miller, 1, 75)."
The tragedy of John Proctor's life is that to save his life he must admit to adultery and, in the process, accuse Abigail Williams of fornication. This young woman, one of the key witnesses against the people of Salem, has acquired a public following because of her willingness to describe the presence of the devil in the community. Proctor can be quiet or he can speak, and by choosing to speak, an ordinary man becomes a hero.
Miller (2, 1) believes that the process of assuming the stance of a tragic hero "is not beyond the common man." The discovery of a moral law and a higher moral imperative than saving one's own life is what transforms John Proctor from a fearful man into a heroic man.
This process makes a fragile man into a noble man who admits that he is a lecher.