What is Reverend Parris praying about at the beginning of Act 1 of The Crucible by Arthur Miller?
As Arthur Miller's play The Crucible opens, the scene is serious. We see the Reverend Parris's house, and it is rather dark. On the bed is a young girl, ten-year-old Betty Parris, and she is not moving. Her father, the reverend, is kneeling next to her; Miller informs us, in the stage directions, that he is praying.
As the scene unfolds, we discover a few more details. Miller adds this stage direction before we learn the subject of Parris's prayer.
Reverend Parris is praying now, and, though we cannot hear his words, a sense of his confusion hangs about him. He mumbles, then seems about to weep; then he weeps, then prays again; but his daughter does not stir on the bed.
Tituba, the family's servant, enters the room, and she is worried to tears for her young mistress Betty, afraid the girl is going to die. Parris erupts and sends her out, and we begin to see what is wrong here and why he is praying.
Once Parris is alone with Betty again, he says this:
Oh, my God! God help me! Quaking with fear, mumbling to himself through his sobs, he goes to the bed and gently takes Betty’s hand. Betty. Child. Dear child, Will you wake, will you open up your eyes! Betty, little one....
Parris, then is praying both for his daughter to wake up and for God to help him, though clearly he is not sick--and notice he prays for himself first. This is the kind of thing we will see from Parris throughout the play; he is a pastor who is concerned for himself before others and is only concerned for others when it benefits himself.