What is Proctor's primary complaint against Parris in The Crucible by Arthur Miller?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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John Proctor and the Reverend Parris are two of the primary characters in The Crucible by Arthur Miller, and there is absolutely no doubt that these two men will never, ever be friends. We see them together for the first time in act one of the play, and it is not a pleasant meeting.

Parris is in his early forties and lives his life with a chip on his shoulder, which means he is always expecting trouble and ready to fight for little or no cause. He is pugnacious and paranoid.

[Parris] believed he was being persecuted wherever he went, despite his best efforts to win people and God to his side. In meeting, he felt insulted if someone rose to shut the door without first asking his permission. 

In his entire conversation with Abigail about what is wrong with Betty, his daughter, Parris's primary concern is his reputation and his position. His reference to people in his congregation as "a faction" and enemies is an indication that he is not much of a shepherd to his flock.

Proctor is a man who is quite aware that he is a sinner, but he also has a clear morality and recognizes that Parris is self-serving, greedy, and weak, three things he cannot abide. He, too, knows that Parris is not the kind of shepherd God expects his representatives to be.

Proctor has come to Parris's house to see what all the hubbub is about, as the town has been fluttering with talk of witchcraft all morning. After he talks to Abigail and learns the truth about the gossip, Proctor is no longer concerned about anything to do with witchcraft, Parris, of course, is terribly frightened by the talk and cannot get beyond his fear that this witchcraft will end up making him look bad. 

Parris resents Proctor because he has not been to church with any regularity, and Proctor explains why he stays away:

I have trouble enough without I come five mile to hear him preach only hellfire and bloody damnation. Take it to heart, Mr. Parris. There are many others who stay away from church these days because you hardly ever mention God any more.

Parris begins his apparently typical rant about not getting paid enough, and it is clear from Proctor's response that he despises Parris's greed:

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

Parris: Man! Don’t a minister deserve a house to live in? 

Proctor: To live in, yes. But to ask ownership is like you shall own the meeting house itself; the last meeting I were at you spoke so long on deeds and mortgages I thought it were an auction.

Later, in act two, Proctor tells Hale that seeing the fancy golden candlesticks )constant reminders of Parris's grasping and greedy nature) in the church hurts his worship, and his youngest son has not been baptized because he does not want Parris to come anywhere near his child. Finally he says this:

I see no light of God in that man. I’ll not conceal it.

That is Proctor's primary complaint against Parris. Parris is supposed to be a man of God, but he is so consumed with his own reputation, with condemning people to hell for their sins, and with money and things that Proctor no longer respects Parris as his pastor.

Ironically, it is the confessed sinner (Proctor) who demonstrates more godly character than the experienced and educated preacher (Parris).

Sources:
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laurto | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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Proctor did not like the fact that Parris always talked about money. He felt that Parris cared more about money than he did for the church or God. That is why he didn't baptize all his children, he wanted to avoid Parris.

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