What is the invited reading of Reverend Paris in The Crucible with reference to the text?

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andrewnightingale | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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I am not quite sure what you are asking but assume that you wish for a discussion on Reverend Parris' character as it is presented in the play.

It is ironic that the dear Reverend, who should be the spiritual and moral leader of a congregation in turmoil during the traumatic events in Salem, is presented as a weak, cowardly and ineffectual leader, who cares only about himself and his position, rather than being the caring and benign patriarchal figure on whom his followers can rely for empathy and support. He presents as a vindictive, bitter man, intent on protecting only the material benefits provided by his position.

We learn from the outset that Reverend Parris,

... cut a villainous path, and there is very little good to be said for him. He believed he was being persecuted wherever he went, despite his best efforts to win people and God to his side.

The notion that he was being persecuted wherever he went, made the reverend fundamentally suspicious of everyone and he was always on his guard, ready to defend himself, paranoid about criticism and his authority. It is therefore not surprising that when rumours about witchcraft involving his niece, Abigail, and his daughter, Betty, surface, that he does everything in his power to protect his position.

In his conversation with Abigail, the reverend clearly expresses his fear and paranoia:

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.

It must come out - my enemies will bring it out. Let me know what you done there. Abigail, do you understand that I have many enemies?

There is a faction that is sworn to drive me from my pulpit.

To prove that nothing untoward has happened, Reverend Parris has called for Reverend Hale, a supposed expert in the occult to absolve himself. He believes that Hale will discover a reason for his daughter's strange ailment and that he would then not be held responsible. All Parris' hope is vested in Hale's expertise. He tells the Putnams that he had only sent for Reverend Hale as a precaution, since there was 'no element of witchcraft' to be found in his house.

We also learn, through John Proctor, who has lost all faith in Reverend Parris' leadership, about Parris' desire for material possession. When he arrives, Proctor confronts the reverend and says:

Mr. Parris, you are the first minister ever did demand the deed to this house -

... the last meeting I were at you spoke so long on deeds and mortgages I thought it were an auction.

He also later informs Reverend Hale:

Parris came, and for twenty week he preach nothin’ but golden candlesticks until he had them.

It is clear throughout the play, that Reverend Parris is a coward. Instead of supporting his congregants and seeking divine intervention, redemption and inspiration for them, he seeks the easy route - siding with the court and supporting the girls in their damning accusations. he even goes as far as acting as prosecutor, trying to convince the court that Mary Warren is lying when she is actually attempting to tell the truth. He asks judge Danforth:

Surely Your Excellency is not taken by this simple lie.

So great is Reverend Parris' fear for the so-called 'faction' he believes is against him, and so great is his resentment and bitterness toward John Proctor, that he urges that John sign a confession and declare his so-called guilt publicly.

It is a great service, sir. It is a weighty name; it will strike the village that Proctor confess. I beg you, let him sign it.

When John Proctor eventually tears up the confession, Reverend Parris, in a fit of fear and anxiety, rushes to Elizabeth (John's wife) and begs her to speak to her husband. Parris fears that John's recant will have dire consequences for him. He is not only a coward and a fool, but also a heinous man without character.

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