The common man can be a tragic hero when the circumstances of his life place him in a position where he must choose between silence and some type of action. Often, heroism is little more than a refusal to go along with a lie or to accept some type of evil in the world. In Arthur Miller's plan, The Crucible, John Procter becomes a hero because he chooses not to lie about having "seen" his neighbors consorting with the Devil (Miller, 1, 134). In this brief essay, a discussion of the common man as a hero will be offered, drawing upon Miller's play about the Salem witch trials and other materials to argue that heroes are generally no more grand than the average human being.
Arthur Miller (2, 1), argued that "The common man is as apt a subject for tragedy in its highest sense as kings were." Miller (2, 1) suggests that tragic heroes often emerge in response to circumstances that require them to take action in the face of a challenge to personal dignity. In other words, heroes are not born, but may well be made simply because of the circumstances of their life.
This is certainly the case with respect to John Proctor, the central character and reluctant hero of Miller's play, The Crucible. John Proctor, a resident of Salem Village, is a man who seems unlikely to be a hero. He has been unfaithful to his wife, Elizabeth and knows that "were I stone I would have cracked for shame this seven month (Miller, 1, 60)." By having engaged in an extramarital affair with a young woman named Abigail Williams, Proctor finds himself and his family under attack by a community and its religious leaders who seem to have gone mad.
John Proctor loses his life not because he is guilty of a crime or even because he is an extremely brave man. Instead, he chooses to die because he will not sign his name to a confession that he knows is false (Miller, 1, 138). He retrieves his own "goodness" by refusing to name others as having consorted wit...