What causes the conflict between John Proctor and Reverend Parris?
John Proctor seems to feel that Reverend Parris's priorities are misplaced, and Parris resents Proctor's willingness to question and disobey him. The first time they disagree in the play is over Parris's salary. Parris feels that he should be paid sixty six pounds per year, and that the village is supposed to supply him with firewood. However, Proctor and Giles Corey explain that Parris's salary is sixty pounds, plus an additional six pounds to purchase firewood. Parris's anger about his less-than-adequate salary, in his eyes, as well as his bitterness at being denied the deed to the home he lives in, as the village minister, really put off Proctor. As a person, Proctor seems to feel that Parris is unreasonable and materialistic (especially considering his anger at Parris's insistence on having golden candlesticks for the altar when there were already perfectly good pewter candlesticks made by a church member).
Further, Proctor seems to feel that Parris, as a minister, does not do a good job. He asks Parris, "Can you speak one minute without we land in Hell again? I am sick of Hell!" Proctor takes issue with the way Parris conducts Sunday services, and even feels that there is "no light of God" in the minister, as he tells Mr. Hale in Act Two. Parris, for his part, believes that Proctor leads a faction against him in the church, that Proctor is actively working against Parris and would remove Parris from his position of authority if he could.
John Proctor represents the average working man who has made mistakes in his life. In the play, we find out that John has been unfaithful to his wife. He confessed the adultery to his wife and she tries to forgive. However, John did not confess to Reverend Parris and ask for forgiveness which is the Puritan belief. It is not that Proctor does not believe in the religion, he does not believe in the “righteous” Reverend Parris. It is through this conflict that Miller displays the hypocrisy in the Puritan belief system. Parris is human and has made mistakes but he pretends to be infallible which cause the hypocrisy. In order for Parris to keep his status in the community he had to eliminate all opposition. Accusing his neighbors of witchcraft became the means for this annihilation.