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In the first act, it is notable that Mrs. Putnam confesses to Reverend Parris that she sent her daughter, Ruth, to Parris's slave, Tituba, to conjure the the spirits of Mrs. Putnam's dead children. She believes that witchcraft is the cause of her children's deaths, and so she essentially encourages her daughter to engage in witchcraft in order to find out who the murderous witches are. Parris is shocked, and he even tells her, "Goody Ann, it is a formidable sin to conjure up the dead!" Yet, when the court comes to Salem, Parris never once mentions this important detail to the magistrates because the Putnams are powerful, and they are his allies. Further, he tries to hide the fact that he saw the girls dancing in the woods prior to Ruth and Betty becoming sick; John Proctor reveals this truth to the court and Danforth is "astonished." Parris also tries to malign Proctor's character as well. He conceals and embellishes wherever he wants, wherever it will most benefit him, and -- especially when people's lives are in danger -- this is an incredibly immoral way to act.

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Reverend Parris is portrayed as a selfish, callous man, who is primarily concerned with maintaining his position of authority and reaping the benefits of being Salem's spiritual leader. At the beginning of the play, Reverend Parris shows more concern about losing his position as reverend to a rival faction than he does his daughter's health after Abigail admits that she danced in the forest with the other girls. Reverend Parris also displays his greedy, materialistic nature by complaining about his salary, demanding the deed to his house, and insisting that he have golden candlesticks at his altar. John Proctor mentions that he does not see the light of God in Reverend Parris and even Rebecca Nurse admits that he speaks too frequently on hellfire and damnation. Despite the complaints from Proctor, Corey, and Nurse, Reverend Parris insists that they are "stiff-necked" people, who must obey his authority and remain silent. As the proceedings get underway, Reverend Parris reveals that he is not concerned with discovering the truth and attempts to silence any citizen bringing evidence against the court. He is depicted as a completely callous, debased individual, who is willing to let innocent citizens die in order to protect his position of authority. Even after Abigail flees with his life savings, Parris is only focused on losing his money and worried about his well-being instead of feeling guilty that innocent people are going to hang. Overall, Reverend Parris is an immoral, materialistic man, who is extremely selfish and unsympathetic throughout the course of the play.

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Just as the witch hunt in Salem reveals the strength and courage of some characters in the drama, it also reveals the greed and cowardice in others, especially in Reverend Samuel Parris. From the moment witchcraft is mentioned as a possible cause of the children’s strange behavior, Parris views every subsequent event and circumstance in terms of its impact on his reputation and personal finances. At no time does he demonstrate concern for anyone but himself as the hysteria grows in Salem. John Proctor recognized the moral deficiencies in Reverend Parris long before Salem is consumed by the witch hunt. In explaining why the Proctors’ third child had not been baptized, John says, “I like it not that Mr. Parris should lay his hand upon my baby. I see no light of God in that man.” In Parris’s actions as the leader of the church in Salem, Proctor finds no love, humility, compassion, or dedication in serving God; he sees instead Parris’s selfishness and greed.

Before becoming the head of the church in Salem, Parris had lived in Barbados where he made his living in commercial trade. In accepting the position in Salem, he had been driven by worldly rather than spiritual concerns, especially in regard to money and what it can buy. He negotiated his services to the church, no doubt, as he had once negotiated deals in his “thrifty business” in Barbados. The Reverend had demanded a contract under which he would be paid sixty-six pounds annually and be provided with a house and firewood; once employed, he demanded a deed to the house. Moreover, Parris had been displeased with the simple trappings of the little church in Salem, insisting that the congregation buy candlesticks made of gold to replace the pewter candlesticks on the altar. “I think, sometimes, the man dreams of cathedrals, not clapboard meetin’ houses,” Proctor says of the Reverend.

Parris views his position in Salem as a career, not a calling, which is made evident in how he reacts when witchcraft is mentioned in regard to the children’s strange behavior. “I am certain there be no element of witchcraft here,” he reassures Goody Putnam. He then begs her husband, “I pray you, leap not to witchcraft …. They will howl me out of Salem for such corruption in my house.” In a time when many believed in the power of witches to act in concert with the devil in taking human souls, Parris refuses to entertain the possibility that the children are afflicted by evil spirits. He fears even the mention of “so disastrous a charge,” viewing it as a dire threat to his personal wellbeing. That the children’s souls might be at risk is of no concern to him, but he is very concerned about losing his job.

Despite Parris’s attempts to stifle the discussion of witchcraft in Salem, the community is soon overwhelmed with the hunt for witches and the establishment of Judge Danforth’s court. Throughout the trials, Parris aligns himself with the court and its proceedings; unlike Reverend Hale, a man guided by conscience, Parris does not question the workings of the court, even though he has good reason to question the veracity of Abigail Williams as the chief accuser of the innocent, nor is he affected by the tragedy occurring in his congregation. It is only when Abigail breaks into Parris’s strongbox and runs away with his money that the Reverend responds with heartfelt emotion. “Thirty-one pound is gone. I am penniless,” he exclaims to Judge Hathorne. Parris then “covers his face and sobs.” Reverend Parris has no tears for innocent lives destroyed, but in his greed and cowardice, he has a great deal of pity for himself.

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