In Act 4, why has Parris fallen apart?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Parris has fallen apart in Act IV for a variety of reasons.  The first would be that the witch trials, something upon which he had pinned a great deal of hope, have become the source of anger amongst the people.  Citizens of the nearby town of Andover have openly rejected the trials in their town and held those who instigated them responsible.  Parris, always insecure of his own status, is fearful that such rebellion will come upon he and those who initiated the Salem trials of witches. At the same time, Parris is mindful of how it will look to execute people such as Proctor and Rebecca Nurse.  Parris recognizes the respect they command, and given the fact that he will be standing over their deaths, he rightly recognizes that he will receive a heaping of negative publicity over this.  It was one thing to execute individuals like Sarah Good or Tituba, people who lacked social power and were marginalized in their own right.  Yet, Parris understands that killing socially accepted individuals will not yield good results for him.  On a personal level, his insecurity has been turned up by Abigail stealing his money and running away, lending even more doubt to the proceedings as the star witness has run off.  Parris also shares that he has been the victim of death threats, along with a dagger in his office.  It is for these reasons that Parris comes across as completely fragmented and incoherent, to a great extent.