Arthur Miller's essay, "Tragedy and the Common Man,"" encompasses the theme of courage and how it is the driving force of man's compulsion to find his identity. In the essay, Miller describes tragedies as stories that contain the tragic mode. In a tragic story such as The Crucible (also written by Arthur Miller), the tragic mode is broken down into three essential parts. The first part shows the tragic hero, John Proctor, and his constant struggle within himself to preserve his dignity. The second part shows the outward manifestation of this struggle, as the hero is ready to give the ultimate sacrifice to clear his feelings of guilt. The third part shows the transition of the hero into an enlightened state of mind, as his conscience is clear and he is at peace with himself. The terms tragic action, tragic feeling, tragic hero, and tragic flaw are all used by Miller to help describe the three components of the tragic mode. .
Arthur Miller defines the tragic flaw as a "crack in the character that is really nothing- and need be nothing- (Tragedy and the Common Man, 306). The tragic hero is irked by a small blemish that would be easily dismissed by a lesser man. This flaw in the hero leads him to an obsession of suppressing and forgetting this flaw. Unfortunately, this flaw does not go away inside the hero's head and he is thus left throughout the first part of the tragedy in anxiety and despair. In The Crucible, John Proctor is a well-respected farmer of Salem, Massachusetts. His affair with Abigail Williams, which is unknown to the rest of the town, leaves him with a stone of guilt to carry. Proctor needs to decide which is more important to him; his reputation in Salem or his own image of his rightful status. If he reveals Abigail's jealous motives by confessing her adulterous sin, his reputation will be blackened. The guilt of his affair is the tragic flaw he holds throughout the trials and he tries to suppress this flaw by hiding it from the court.