Analyze Reverend Parris from "The Crucible". What are his motivations in supporting the witch trials?

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Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Reverend Parris is motivated by his need to maintain credibility and authority in the community.  At first, he fears that his enemies will ruin him with the knowledge that there is witchcraft, and in his own home.  However, Mr. Putnam suggests, "Let you take hold of it here.  Wait for no one to charge you -- declare it yourself.  You have discovered witchcraft --."  He tells Parris that Parris can get in front of the accusations, so to speak, by claiming that he, himself, has rooted out the source of the evil.  Further, Putnam says, "Let you strike out against the Devil, and the village will bless you for it!"  Eventually, this line of reasoning seems to take hold of Parris, and he realizes the truth of what Putnam has suggested.  If he can take credit for recognizing the evil, then he keeps his authority and position.

These concerns seem to preoccupy him throughout.  When John Proctor brings Mary Warren to court in Act 3, Parris immediately tries to discredit Proctor so that his and Mary's testimony will not be believed.  Her confession that the girls are lying, if believed, would mean that Parris has been wrong all along, and he would then lose credibility.  Rather than let this happen, he accuses Proctor and Mary of lying.

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dneshan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Reverend Parris is a character who cares much more about his own reputation and his own well-being than anyone else in the play, possibly even that of his own daughter.  In the very first act, the audience can tell just how self-centered he is and how fearful he becomes of the possiblity that once word gets out that witchcraft has been found in his house that he will be ousted from his position as reverend in Salem village.  When, in Act 1, Susanna Walcott returns to Parris with news from Dr. Briggs that he can not find anything wrong with Betty and that her affliction must be blamed on "unnatural causes" he is quick to tell her to tell the doctor that there is no witchcraft in his house and basically tells everyone else at that point not to spread around this information.  Rev. Parris reacts similarly throughout the play as he constantly tries to "help" the judges by egging on the accusations.  Even in Act 4 we can see how paranoid Parris is when he finds a dagger stabbed into his door.  At this point in the play he tries to almost befriend his enemy John Proctor in order to get him to confess, therefore hopefully saving his own life from people who might riot against him.  

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Credebility. Reputation. Ambition. Pride. and Family

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