How Has Parris Changed?

In the last act of "The Crucible," how has Reverend Parris changed? Why doesn't the news of Abigail and Mercy leaving town affect the ruling of the court?

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In the last act of the play, Reverend Parris is depicted as a timid man, who fears for his life and desperately wishes that John Proctor, Martha Corey, and Rebecca Nurse will confess to witchcraft. He fears that the citizens will rebel against the court like they did in the town of Andover if the three morally-upright citizens are publicly hanged. Parris now relies on John Proctor to confess and does not see himself as John's enemy. He wishes that Proctor would simply confess to witchcraft and save his life in order to appease the citizens. The fact that Parris relies on Proctor and is no longer a confident man hiding behind the court's authority is a dramatic change from how he behaved in act three. Parris has doubts about the court's authority and no longer feels safe as a leading authority figure in Salem. His concerns are much larger than simply being removed from his position, and he fears that he will be executed by the citizens if they rebel against the court.

The news of Abigail and Mercy Lewis's disappearance does not affect the ruling of the court because Deputy Governor Danforth is a proud, stubborn man, who believes that postponing the trials will show "floundering" on his part. Danforth also mentions that twelve people have already been executed for witchcraft and says that it would be impossible to pardon John and the others. Danforth reveals his resolute, stubborn nature by saying,

"I should hang ten thousand that dared to rise against the law, and an ocean of salt tears could not melt the resolution of the statutes" (Miller, 129).

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After Abigail robs Parris and leaves town, Parris is left penniless, sorrow-stricken, afraid, and a broken man who breaks down and sobs. However, he believes that Abigail left because she was afraid of retribution from other witches in the town and fails to see her guilt. Because of this and other setbacks, he is eager to put an end to the trials but is afraid that the executions of seemingly innocent people will turn the town against him and cause a riot. He has already received non-verbal threats and wants to find a way to make the accused confess in order to spare their lives. He pleads with Proctor to confess so that he is spared, and he even recruits Elizabeth to join him in his task. This change of heart is selfishly motivated, of course, as Parris is still solely concerned for himself.

Abigail's disappearance does not sway the court because Judge Danforth is a proud and stubborn man. He believes that any change in his agenda is a sign of weakness and an admission of error because he has already had twelve people hanged. He thinks that the village expects to see "justice" done, and he vows to hang anyone who opposes the law.

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Throughout the play Paris tries to protect his reputation because of what Abigail has done. He insists that the witchcraft is real and that the girls are possessed by members of the community. He doesn’t want it revealed that Abigail is lying because he knows he will be the one to pay. Even to the end of the play, Paris insists that Proctor sign the confession because he knows that is the only way to save his reputation.When Abigail and Mercy Lewis leave town, the court refuses to change their rulings because they don’t want to admit that they have been wrong the entire time. Judge Hawthorne states that it won’t be fair to dismiss the convicted now because of those who have already hung. The courts arrogance is the reason the court will not change the rulings.

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