John Proctor is a tormented individual. He believes his affair with Abigail irreparably damaged him in the eyes of God, his wife Elizabeth, and himself. True, Proctor did succumb to sin and commit adultery; however, he lacks the capacity to forgive himself. Unsurprisingly, his relationship with Elizabeth remains strained throughout the majority of the play. He resents Elizabeth because she cannot forgive him and trust him again, but he is guilty of the same thing. In fact, his own inability to forgive himself merely intensifies his reaction to Elizabeth's lack of forgiveness.
In addition to struggling with the weight of his sin, the fact that he must reveal his transgression torments Proctor. His best possession is his good name and the respect and integrity associated with it. Once he acknowledges his affair with Abigail, Proctor effectively brands himself an adulterer and loses his good name. He dreads revealing his sin because guilt and regret already overwhelm him. Proctor believes a public display of his wrongdoing only intensifies the extent of his sin, thereby multiplying his guilt.
Proctor's decision to tell the court about his affair ironically demonstrates his goodness. He willingly sacrifices his good name in order to protect his wife. Only through his public acknowledgment of the affair does Proctor regain his wife's trust. At the end of the play, Proctor refuses to slander himself by allowing the court to nail his false confession to the church door. This action further exemplifies Proctor's integrity. Proctor knows that he will damn himself, yet again, if he agrees to confess. Although he wants to live, escaping death is not worth basing the remainder of his life on a lie. This realization, along with Elizabeth's forgiveness, enables Proctor to forgive himself and finally regain his good name and self-respect. As the court officials lead him to the gallows, he finds peace for the first time in the play.