What is the significance of these quotes from Act 1 of Arthur Miller's The Crucible?1. "Now look you, child, your punishment will come in its...

What is the significance of these quotes from Act 1 of Arthur Miller's The Crucible?

1. "Now look you, child, your punishment will come in its time." (Parris to Abigail)

2. "Your name in the town—it is entirely white, is it not?" (Parris to Abigail)

Expert Answers
favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

1. When the Reverend Parris tells Abigail that her punishment will come in its time, he means that punishing her is not currently on the top of his list of priorities.  He is concerned "[his] ministry's at stake, [his] ministry and perhaps [her] cousin's life."  He knows everyone in the village suspects witchcraft to be at the root of Betty's apparent illness and fears his enemies "will ruin [him] with it."  Abigail swears she and Betty did not conjure spirits in the woods, but the dancing that she's already confessed to is an act for which Parris would punish her.  He's simply putting her punishment on hold because he is so panicked about his status and position in the town and his daughter.

2. When Parris asks Abigail whether her name is "white" in the town, he is asking after her reputation.  He has heard rumors that Goody Proctor does not come to church any more because "she will not sit so close to something soiled."  It is unlikely that Elizabeth would actually have said this because she wouldn't want to cast suspicion on her husband (who had an affair with Abigail) and injure his reputation, and because the reason she's not been coming to church is she's been sick since the birth of her last child.  The Proctors did discharge Abigail from their service seven months earlier, however, and Parris thinks it is odd no one else has inquired about hiring Abigail during this time.

marleyreef eNotes educator| Certified Educator

1. Reverend Parris is telling Abigail that she will be punished for inappropriate and heathen acts such as dancing in the woods at night with Betty and the other girls. However, he is putting her punishment (most likely whipping) on hold to get more information about what happened that night before Betty got sick and to contain the gossip about witchcraft spreading amongst the villagers.

2. Parris is asking Abigail if she has a reputation of decency amongst the villagers. This is in reference to her being fired by Elizabeth Proctor and Elizabeth's statement that she dare not attend church because she doesn't want to be near something so "soiled." This is all foreshadowing the imminent disclosure of Abigail's affair with John Proctor to come in Act I. This puts Abigail's credibility in question immediately with the reader, which shades her actions later in the plot.