How does Miller characterize Parris in The Crucible?
To me, Parris seems characterized as cautious and nervous. What I find most ironic about such characterization is that Parris, if a holy man, should have no fear of others opinions if he is indeed right with God and his heart is pure.
This is not how Miller paints him. I see Parris watching his back. He works to hide the situation of his daughter Betty from his congregation. He fears having them know that the demonic has had power over his family.
Parris feels his parishioners are out to get him. He feels cheated by them. There was a discrepancy over his annual salary. He thought his salary should be 66 pounds a year plus firewood. His parish understood the salary to be 60 pounds a year and 6 pounds worth of firewood. When he is issued the latter of the two he is disappointed and feels slighted.
Because John doesn't regularly come to church, Parris judges his holiness. He finds Proctor less of a man because of his faithlessness to church attendance. That is not the measure of a man, Parris will soon learn what is.
To me, Miller shows Rev. Parris as something of a weak man. He characterizes Parris as someone who will go along with what the public wants but who is also very protective of his image in the eyes of the people. We can see this in how Parris reacts when Betty is found in the woods. He is concerned mostly with the way it will affect his image.
As far as his parishoners, I would say that Parris looks down on them a bit. He wants them to obey him without questioning. We can see this in his argument with John Proctor. Parris seems to get very angry whenever there is any suggestion of people disagreeing with him or of people not giving him the amount of respect that he thinks he deserves.