What is wrong with Rev. Parrish's daughter?

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coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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Betty swoons when she and the other girls are discovered dancing in the woods at night. It is possible that she suffered from shock and severe emotional distress as she then has to take to her bed. Her father, Reverend Parrish, kneels down to pray beside her bed. She is almost catatonic, not moving and not responding. It is also possible that she has extreme anxiety partially triggered by her father's treatment of her and possibly bullying at work. Her father is a bit paranoid and seems very strict and sombre, also perhaps a control freak. For example he thinks his parishioners shouldn't even move in church without his saying so.

The community suspects that Betty's affliction has been caused by witchcraft and comes to the minister's house. He sends for a witchcraft expert to explore the possibility that Betty is bewitched. The minister then scolds Abigail Williams, because she was with Betty, dancing in the night with his slave Tituba, who was chanting weird words around a fire, and he suspects immoral behaviour.

However Abigail rejects the witchcraft accusation and says that it was shock that caused Betty to collapse. Reverend Parrish is worried that he will be run out of his ministry and checks that Abigail's reputation is perfect because there is a rumour that Abigail's erstwhile employer Elizabeth Proctor fired her for being 'soiled.' She stopped attending church and parishioners gossiped that the reason was an unwillingness to sit next to an 'unclean' Abigail. 

Abigail continues to assert her innocence of these perceived witchcraft and immorality crimes, saying that Elizabeth Proctor has reason to hate her because she stood up for herself in refusing to work like a slave. Reverend Parrish thinks it is suspicious that no other family has hired Abigail. Her insight into this assumption is that he does not wish to support her in terms of living costs. It is possible that nowadays we would suspect that both girls were suffering from acute emotional distress caused by a lack of affection and emotional warmth and also by high anxiety and insecurity. Betty's almost catatonic state could be the result of post traumatic stress and fear when she saw her father arrive suddenly. In past times situations like this were put down to witchcraft or black magic when no other explanation was available and when 'experts' had no other answers as worried people came looking to them for answers or spiritual guidance.

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