In The Crucible, what most concerns Reverend Parris?

In The Crucible, what most concerns Reverend Parris is having a tarnished reputation and losing his position as Salem's minister.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In The Crucible, the Reverend Parris has a narrow range of concerns, most of which are related to his own safety, status, and prosperity. His most humane and creditable concern is with the health and life of his daughter, Betty, but he quickly forgets this as he subordinates it to other considerations.

Parris's most basic concern is his own security as the pastor in Salem. He is worried about his own popularity—with some reason, since there are factions in the congregation which were opposed to his appointment—and he thinks constantly about the rumors which he believes his enemies are spreading. This is why his first thought is never what is actually happening, but how it will look to other people.

Related to this concern is Parris's obsession with his own status and wealth. He was once a merchant in Barbados and is always comparing the income he achieved in this role with the relatively small sum he earns as a minister. He reminds the people of Salem that he is a Harvard graduate and that they are lucky to have a man of his erudition in their community. This is why he quibbles over his firewood allowance and demands the title deeds to his house. Parris's paranoia is fed by the fact that his attempts to assert his own importance and value to the community are often met with rebuffs.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on December 29, 2020
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In The Crucible, Reverend Parris is depicted as a superficial, selfish man, who plays an important role in cultivating the witchcraft hysteria and supporting the corrupt court. Reverend Parris is determined to protect his reputation and maintain his position of authority at all costs. Despite his daughter's mysterious illness, Reverend Parris shows that he is more concerned about his reputation and position as Salem's minister by expressing his anxiety that his enemies will ruin him. Parris is desperate to conceal Abigail's transgressions because he fears retribution from a faction dedicated to removing him from authority. Reverend Parris tells Abigail,

And I pray you feel the weight of truth upon you, for now my ministry's at stake, my ministry and perhaps your cousin's life.

The order of Reverend Parris's concerns is significant and reveals where his heart is at. He is more concerned about his ministry than his daughter's well-being or the safety of the community. Reverend Parris even summons Reverend Hale from Beverly to investigate witchcraft as a proactive attempt to appease his enemies. Parris is more than happy to use Tituba as a scapegoat and supports his corrupt niece when she begins accusing random citizens of witchcraft.

In act 3, Reverend Parris aligns himself with Danforth and Hathorne and accuses John Proctor of attempting to undermine the court. Parris has no interest in revealing the truth or ending the hysteria and is simply focused on maintaining his authority. In act 4, Parris informs Danforth that Abigail robbed him and fled the village. Rather than sympathize with the innocent victims of the witch trials, Parris fears for his life and worries that the villagers will expel him. At no point in the play is he concerned for anyone other than himself.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on December 2, 2020
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Reverend Parris is most concerned about his reputation. Audiences are very aware of this concern of his early in the play. His daughter, Betty, is sick on the bed, and nobody knows what is wrong with her. His number one concern should be Betty, but instead it is his image and reputation among the people of Salem.

Parris: Now look you, child, your punishment will come in its time. But if you trafficked with spirits in the forest I must know it now, for surely my enemies will, and they will ruin me with it.

A few moments later he follows up the previous comment with this one.  

Parris, studies her, then nods, half convinced: Abigail, I have sought here three long years to bend these stiff-necked people to me, and now, just now when some good respect is rising for me in the parish, you compromise my very character.

The entire conversation between Abigail and Parris is focused on how the events in the forest reflect on him. He just isn't as concerned about Betty.

What's very interesting about this play is that John Proctor is also very concerned about his reputation among the people of Salem. A difference between Proctor and Parris, though, is that Proctor is willing to ruin his good name to save the lives of other people. That's exactly what Proctor does, too. He admits to an affair with Abigail in order to save his wife and discredit Abigail's testimonies. Parris, on the other hand, is still focused on his own reputation, which is why he tells the court to dismiss John's words. He warns Danforth, “Beware this man, Your Excellency, he is mischief.”

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Throughout The Crucible, Reverend Parris is continuously worried about himself and his career.  In Act I when he questions Abigail about the girls' nocturnal activities, as well as the rumors about her reputation in town, he pointedly asks her:

 

Now look you, child, your punishment will come in its time. But if you trafficked with spirits in the forest, I must know it now, for surely my enemies will, and they will ruin me with it.

 

The focus of this question is not on his only daughter who is lying sick in bed or even if they did traffic with the devil.  Instead, he wants to know if they were with the devil out of fear that his enemies will find out and use the information against him.  Instead, he keeps referring to a faction that exists somewhere in Salem that he believes is trying to pull him out of his job.

 

In Act III, Parris is presented with evidence that the girls are lying to the court.  However, he is not willing to listen to them.  Instead he tries to turn the court’s attention away by suggesting that Proctor is a part of the faction against him.  He warns Danforth, “Beware this man, Your Excellency, he is mischief.” 

Again, instead of looking to see the cause of the girls’ illness, he is concerned only with himself and his career.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial