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How do the people of Salem generally feel about the Reverend Parris in The Crucible by...

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alexandra690 | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 23, 2013 at 2:49 AM via iOS

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How do the people of Salem generally feel about the Reverend Parris in The Crucible by Arthur Miller?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 23, 2013 at 5:38 AM (Answer #1)

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Most of the people of Salem do not appear to like the Reverend Parris very much in The Crucible. In his commentary to his readers in Act I, Arthur Miller describes Parris, and the description is not flattering.

At the time of these events Parris was in his middle forties...and there is very little good to be said for him. He believed he was being persecuted wherever he went, despite his best efforts to win people and God to his side. In meeting, he felt insulted if someone rose to shut the door without first asking his permission. He was a widower with no interest in children, or talent with them. 

This characterization of Parris as a man who is always on edge because he is sure others are out to get him is accurate, and Parris's paranoia will add to the chaos of the witch trials very quickly. Parris tries to "win people and God to his side," which is a tragic commentary on a supposed man of God. 

Even worse, he lives with a chip on his shoulder, just waiting for someone to give the slightest sign of possible offense. In short, Parris is not the kind of man who is well suited to be a shepherd because he is suspicious and disdainful of his sheep.

As the play opens, it is clear that Parris does not have many friends. Even the people who tolerate him do not particularly like him. Rebecca Nurse treats Parris fairly well, but that is mostly just because she is a very kind woman by nature. The Putnams do not hate Parris, but they certainly do not really care about him except for what he can do for them. 

In contrast, nearly everyone else actively dislikes the man, including John Proctor and Giles Corey, well respected members of the town. Parris is an unpleasant and condemning man who is quick to accuse others of whatever he can in order to deflect any negativity from himself. 

Parris's biggest fear seems to be that a faction of his own people are out to get him, and this fear and paranoia is what drives him most of the time. Despite their unhappiness with Parris, however, his congregation does seem to to be more tolerant of him than he is of them. 

Sources:

Lori Steinbach

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