In "The Crucible", how does Miller characterize Parris? How does Parris feel about parishoners?

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dneshan | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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In “The Crucible”, Arthur Miller characterizes Reverend Parris as a man who is more concerned with his own reputation than anything else.  His daughter is seemingly bewitched, yet all he seems to worry about is whether or not he will be overthrown while he takes the time to argue over land and money with John Proctor, Giles Corey, and Thomas Putnam in Act 1 of the play.  While questioning his niece about what happened in the woods, he is also worried about reputation when he questions her own, thinking that any bad reputation on her part would fall back on him.  Additionally, when the Putnams begin to lay the blame of Betty and Ruth’s sicknesses on witchcraft, Parris refuses to allow this information to leave his house because he thinks that since it began in his house that he will be blamed and overthrown from his position as Salem’s reverend.  Parris fears his congregation because he knows that they have the power to get rid of him, therefore everything that he does seems to be more to appease the congregation than to help his own family in such horrendous situations.  Parris is self-centered, egotistical, and money-hungry and worries more about what other people think of him than about what he can do to help out in the situation.

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favoritethings | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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In addition, Reverend Parris seems to really look down on his parishioners in Salem.  Early in Act 1, when he is trying to convince Abigail, his niece, to be honest with him about her reputation and recent activities in the forest, he says to her, "Abigail, I have fought here three long years to bend these stiff-necked people to me [...]."  He seems to view his congregation as stubborn, and perhaps even difficult or slow, as "stiff-necked" seems to imply a number of negative qualities like these.  In addition, the need that he feels to "bend" them to his will indicates that he sees them less as people that he leads down a righteous path and more like animals for him to control (we "break" horses, and the like). 

Further, Parris later suggests something even more outlandish when speaking with John Proctor.  As they argue about money, Parris says, "I cannot offer one proposition but there be a howling riot of argument.  I have often wondered if the Devil be in it somewhere; I cannot understand you people otherwise."  Referring to his parishioners as "you people" is hardly a sensitive or inclusive way of speaking; he views himself as separate, set apart, and apparently above them.  He even suggests that they have some link to the Devil or else they would never treat him as they do.

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