What is the significance of Parris' fear to hang John Proctor and Rebecca Nurse the next morning?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that the significance of Parris' decision is to show how much he has changed.  This change is not necessarily moral or spiritual.  It is not ethical.  It is one in which he has become transformed from the hunter to the hunted.  Parris' appearance in Act IV as discombobulated and even a bit frazzled towards his role as leader of the town's religious contingent. Parris' fears reflect how he has become perceived in the town.  The death threats as well as the eroding of his base support have helped to transform him into one who is scared.  He is fearful that the executions of Proctor and Rebecca Nurse, well- liked people in the town, will make his position even more untenable and actually result in his own death.  His fear is significant as it shows the fragile nature of politics. Parris operated under the assumption that political control can be static, in that those who are in the position of power can stay there.  He was rudely awakened to discover that political rule is a very shaky ground, something that is not entirely certain or grounded.  It is fluid, unable to be fully controlled and contained.  In this, there is a sense of fear that fills Parris, motivating his desire to work on the behalf of Parris' and Rebecca Nurse's delay in execution.

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