In The Crucible, what most concerns Reverend Parris?

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pirateteacher's profile pic

pirateteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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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.

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sciftw's profile pic

sciftw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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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.”

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