What are Parris's character traits in act 1 of The Crucible?

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In act 1 of The Crucible, the Reverend Parris shows himself to be quite selfish and more than a little paranoid. Rather than expressing his concern about his daughter's frightening condition, he seems to be far more concerned about his position and the threats he perceives to his power and status. Further, he is cruel to his slave, Tituba, and engages in what seem to be petty squabbles with John Proctor and Giles Corey.

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As is his custom with all the characters in The Crucible, Arthur Miller provides a brief character sketch of the Reverend Parris in the stage directions before he begins to speak. Comparing his depiction of Parris with the "villainous" figure of history, Miller admits that Parris, if not quite a villain, has few good qualities, and he emphasizes his persecution mania and his tendency to take offense without cause.

Parris has ample opportunity to display these character traits during the course of act 1. He is constantly complaining that his congregation is plotting against him and is more concerned with their gossiping than with the supernatural events he thinks have been occurring in Salem. When he questions Abigail, he seems more preoccupied with what his "enemies" will make of her activities than with any diabolic influence.

Parris's selfishness is also demonstrated repeatedly in act 1, along with his avarice and his sense of his own importance. These negative qualities all emerge in his squabble with Proctor and Giles about whether his salary includes an allowance for firewood or not and whether he should have the deeds to the house provided for him. This is an undignified argument for a pastor to have in public, but Parris insists on continuing it and on linking it to his pervading sense of being persecuted and undervalued by all those around him. The argument also shows that for all his concern with his own status, Parris is too short-sighted to see the damage he does to his interests by his brazenness in pursuing them so obviously.

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Parris's behavior in act 1 of The Crucible pretty much sets the tone for how he conducts himself in the rest of the play. Right from the start, we see him as a very selfish man whose only concerns are his status, wealth, and reputation.

It's notable in this regard that when he finds out what his niece Abigail and the other girls have been up to in the forest, his first concern is with the damage that this will have to his standing in the community. Parris knows that if word of the girls' weird midnight cavorting ever gets out, then his enemies—of whom there are many—will use it as an opportunity to destroy him.

Ever the politician, however, Parris quickly sees the developing witch-craze as a chance to hit back against his enemies. A greedy, acquisitive man, Parris is determined to exploit the witch-craze for all it's worth by helping himself to the property of those arraigned on bogus charges of witchcraft.

Initially, Parris was on the defensive, but once he sees the potential for making himself wealthier and more powerful, he becomes more and more brazen and assertive. And this sets the tone for his behavior in the rest of the play.

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Reverend Parris appears to be paranoid and selfish in act 1. Though he is concerned about the health and well-being of his daughter, Betty, he is also clearly more upset about the possibility of losing his position and status in the community of Salem Village. He tries to strong-arm Abigail into confessing what she and the other girls were doing with Tituba in the woods, because he believes that his “enemies” in the village will learn of it and use it against him. He also squabbles with John Proctor and Giles Corey about the deed to the house in which he lives and the amount of his salary versus the amount he is granted for firewood to heat the house, all while his daughter ails in bed upstairs.

Once Parris seems to realize that he can use what is happening to his daughter and Ruth Putnam to bolster his authority and power in the town, he seems to change his tune. At first, he wants to hide what happened, but, as the act progresses, especially in the final page or two, he seems to grasp how he can use the accusations of witchcraft to punish people who he fears pose a threat to him.

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The Reverend Parris distinguishes himself as rather a weak character in Act One. Above all, we are given the impression that he cares far more about his own reputation and public standing than he does abotu the poor figure of Betty lying prostrate in front of him. Note how he quickly moves to try and forestall any comments that Betty's "sickness" has anything to do with witchcraft:

No--no. There be no unnatural cause here. Tell him I have sent for Reverend Hale of Beverly, and Mr. Hale will surely confirm that. Let him look to medicine and put out all thought of unnatural causes here. There be none.

He also seems to be paranoid to a certain extent, as he talks repeated of his "enemies" and presents his position as being under threat and in danger. Consider what he says to 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. Whatever abomination you have done, give me all of it now, for I dare not be taken unaware when I go before them down there.

Parris is therefore presented as a weak character who is obsessed on what others think about him and his standing in the community. The way that he panders to important members of the congregation such as the Putnams show that he is an unprincipled man who cares more about his position and its trappings than he does about moral decency and honesty.

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