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Reverend Parris's relationships and the townspeople's feelings towards him in The Crucible

Summary:

In The Crucible, Reverend Parris has strained relationships with many townspeople. They view him as paranoid, self-pitying, and more concerned with his reputation and material wealth than his parishioners' spiritual well-being. His authoritarian and self-serving nature causes distrust and animosity among the community members.

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Why does Reverend Parris face issues with the church-goers in The Crucible?

Reverend Samuel Parris is presented as a pious man who is inordinately concerned with his reputation. Although he seems sincere in his concern for the church members’ spiritual lives, from the beginning of the play, it is made clear that he worries too much about others' opinions and does not tolerate contradiction. In leading the congregants away from sin, Parris is strict and even rigid. However, he also makes demands of the villagers for material support, which many of them resent.

The minister’s distress over his daughter’s insensate condition comes across as genuine. However, as he speaks with Abigail about the girls’ activities that he witnessed, it becomes obvious that he is highly apprehensive about the townspeople’s reactions. Parris refers to his congregation members as stubbornly resistant to his teachings but also tells Abigail that he thinks he has made some progress in leading them.

I have sought here three long years to bend these stiff-necked people to me, and … some good respect is rising for me in the parish.

Gossip and rumors play an active role in the village, and he quickly confirms that people are already saying that Betty, his daughter, is a witch. He is sure that his “enemies” will take advantage of her involvement as proof that he is ineffective and has allowed the devil into the community. This faction will “ruin” him and try get him removed from his “pulpit.”

When he speaks with John Proctor, some of the reasons for their antipathy are revealed. For example, the community has provided the house in which he lives. However, he is requesting to be made the actual owner of the property. Whereas Proctor speaks of Parris being keen on “deeds and mortgages,” Parris sees his position as absolute and not to be contradicted:

There is either obedience or the church will burn like Hell is burning!

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What are the parishioners' feelings towards Reverend Parris in The Crucible and why?

The parishioners feel Reverend Parris is not as interested in their souls as he is his own pocket. He is suspicious and resentful of anyone who doesn't agree with him. He makes the village give him the deed to his house, something they have never given to a reverend before. Parris wants gold candlesticks in the church rather than pewter ones. He preaches "hellfire and brimstone" on Sundays, scaring his parishioners rather than ever talking about a forgiving, loving God. He is more concerned about his own reputation than what is wrong with his daughter at the beginning of the play. Miller doesn't present Parris as a likable character in the play.

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What are the parishioners' feelings towards Reverend Parris in The Crucible and why?

The sentiments of the parishoners of Roanoake split: some are understandly fearful of their "moral" leader, feeling that he knows whether or not they are saved or damned. This faction buys into his rhetoric that obedience to the Church, and him, are of the utmost importance. ("There will be obedience or the the church will burn like Hell is burning!")

But others have become wary of his quavering authority and Parris know it. He speaks repeatedly in Act One of his "enemies" who would have him ousted. These people know that he is mercenary (witness the grilling about his salary) and condones slavery (Tituba is his "property"). Further, he undermines his own authority by calling for outside reinforcements (in the form of other pastors) to come assess the situation with the girls, leaving them to wonder further about his spirtitual integrity.

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What are Salem's general feelings towards Reverend Parris in The Crucible?

Most of the people of Salem do not appear to like the Reverend Parris very much in The Crucible. In his commentary to his readers in Act I, Arthur Miller describes Parris, and the description is not flattering.

At the time of these events Parris was in his middle forties...and there is very little good to be said for him. He believed he was being persecuted wherever he went, despite his best efforts to win people and God to his side. In meeting, he felt insulted if someone rose to shut the door without first asking his permission. He was a widower with no interest in children, or talent with them. 

This characterization of Parris as a man who is always on edge because he is sure others are out to get him is accurate, and Parris's paranoia will add to the chaos of the witch trials very quickly. Parris tries to "win people and God to his side," which is a tragic commentary on a supposed man of God. 

Even worse, he lives with a chip on his shoulder, just waiting for someone to give the slightest sign of possible offense. In short, Parris is not the kind of man who is well suited to be a shepherd because he is suspicious and disdainful of his sheep.

As the play opens, it is clear that Parris does not have many friends. Even the people who tolerate him do not particularly like him. Rebecca Nurse treats Parris fairly well, but that is mostly just because she is a very kind woman by nature. The Putnams do not hate Parris, but they certainly do not really care about him except for what he can do for them. 

In contrast, nearly everyone else actively dislikes the man, including John Proctor and Giles Corey, well respected members of the town. Parris is an unpleasant and condemning man who is quick to accuse others of whatever he can in order to deflect any negativity from himself. 

Parris's biggest fear seems to be that a faction of his own people are out to get him, and this fear and paranoia is what drives him most of the time. Despite their unhappiness with Parris, however, his congregation does seem to to be more tolerant of him than he is of them. 

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In The Crucible, how does Miller characterize Parris and his feelings towards parishioners?

In addition, Reverend Parris seems to really look down on his parishioners in Salem.  Early in Act 1, when he is trying to convince Abigail, his niece, to be honest with him about her reputation and recent activities in the forest, he says to her, "Abigail, I have fought here three long years to bend these stiff-necked people to me [...]."  He seems to view his congregation as stubborn, and perhaps even difficult or slow, as "stiff-necked" seems to imply a number of negative qualities like these.  In addition, the need that he feels to "bend" them to his will indicates that he sees them less as people that he leads down a righteous path and more like animals for him to control (we "break" horses, and the like). 

Further, Parris later suggests something even more outlandish when speaking with John Proctor.  As they argue about money, Parris says, "I cannot offer one proposition but there be a howling riot of argument.  I have often wondered if the Devil be in it somewhere; I cannot understand you people otherwise."  Referring to his parishioners as "you people" is hardly a sensitive or inclusive way of speaking; he views himself as separate, set apart, and apparently above them.  He even suggests that they have some link to the Devil or else they would never treat him as they do.

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In The Crucible, how does Miller characterize Parris and his feelings towards parishioners?

In “The Crucible”, Arthur Miller characterizes Reverend Parris as a man who is more concerned with his own reputation than anything else.  His daughter is seemingly bewitched, yet all he seems to worry about is whether or not he will be overthrown while he takes the time to argue over land and money with John Proctor, Giles Corey, and Thomas Putnam in Act 1 of the play.  While questioning his niece about what happened in the woods, he is also worried about reputation when he questions her own, thinking that any bad reputation on her part would fall back on him.  Additionally, when the Putnams begin to lay the blame of Betty and Ruth’s sicknesses on witchcraft, Parris refuses to allow this information to leave his house because he thinks that since it began in his house that he will be blamed and overthrown from his position as Salem’s reverend.  Parris fears his congregation because he knows that they have the power to get rid of him, therefore everything that he does seems to be more to appease the congregation than to help his own family in such horrendous situations.  Parris is self-centered, egotistical, and money-hungry and worries more about what other people think of him than about what he can do to help out in the situation.

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In The Crucible, how does Miller characterize Parris and his feelings towards parishioners?

To me, Parris seems characterized as cautious and nervous. What I find most ironic about such characterization is that Parris, if a holy man, should have no fear of others opinions if he is indeed right with God and his heart is pure.

This is not how Miller paints him. I see Parris watching his back. He works to hide the situation of his daughter Betty from his congregation. He fears having them know that the demonic has had power over his family.

Parris feels his parishioners are out to get him. He feels cheated by them. There was a discrepancy over his annual salary. He thought his salary should be 66 pounds a year plus firewood. His parish understood the salary to be 60 pounds a year and 6 pounds worth of firewood. When he is issued the latter of the two he is disappointed and feels slighted.

Because John doesn't regularly come to church, Parris judges his holiness. He finds Proctor less of a man because of his faithlessness to church attendance. That is not the measure of a man, Parris will soon learn what is.

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In The Crucible, how does Miller characterize Parris and his feelings towards parishioners?

To me, Miller shows Rev. Parris as something of a weak man.  He characterizes Parris as someone who will go along with what the public wants but who is also very protective of his image in the eyes of the people.  We can see this in how Parris reacts when Betty is found in the woods.  He is concerned mostly with the way it will affect his image.

As far as his parishoners, I would say that Parris looks down on them a bit.  He wants them to obey him without questioning.  We can see this in his argument with John Proctor.  Parris seems to get very angry whenever there is any suggestion of people disagreeing with him or of people not giving him the amount of respect that he thinks he deserves.

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In The Crucible, what are John Proctor's feelings towards Reverend Parris?

John's distaste for Parris is such that he rarely attends church, which is an issue that will come back to haunt him in the course of the play.  He states that Parris is never satisfied, asking for more money and gold candlesticks.  John also refused to allow Parris to baptise his younger son as he did not want him to lay hands on the child.  As a member of the Puritan community this was an issue of great significance, seeing that they hoped to build a new Jerusalem in the wilderness.  Religion was the single issue upon which the lives of these people turned, so for John to reject God's vessel is not taken lightly by men like Hale and Danforth.

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In The Crucible, what are John Proctor's feelings towards Reverend Parris?

John is fairly open about his feelings for Parris.  In the first act, he gets into arguments with Parris, and some of his feelings come out.  One issue he has with Parris is his preaching style.  Of it, Proctor states, "I have trouble enough without I come five mile to hear him preach only hellfire and bloody damnation...there are many others who stay away from church tese days because you hardly ever mention God anymore."  So, he feels that Parris' preaching style is much too intense, negative, and critical.  Proctor also feels that Parris is unusually worldy and materialistic.  When Parris demands to outright own the house that the church provides for him, Proctor says, "to ask ownership is like you shall own the meeting house itself," voicing his dismay that a preacher would need that ownership.  In act two he adds to his opinion of Parris' materialism by mentioning of Parris that "for twenty week he preach nothin' but golden candlesticks until he had them."  He feels that Parris is a petty, negative man, and he "sees no light ofgod in that man."  He feels so strongly that Parris isn't a good minister that he jokingly says that he is going to "find and join" the faction or party that is forming against Parris, and, his youngest son isn't baptized because John doesn't want Parris to "lay his hand upon my baby."

I hope that gives you a feel for how John feels about Parris; it certainly isn't warm and fuzzy, and John has no qualms expressing it.

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In The Crucible, what are John Proctor's feelings towards Reverend Parris?

The principal reason for John and Elizabeth Proctor's absence from church is that neither of them wants to be near Abigail after John's affair with her. Another reason however, and one that is easier for him to express in public, is that he has a poor opinion of the Reverend Parris and his preaching. In act 2 he tells Mr. Hale that he stays away from church and objects to having his children baptized by Parris because he sees "no light of God in that man."

John also regards Parris as greedy for money and says that this avarice makes its way into his preaching. Not only did he demand the deeds to his house and quibble over his firewood allowance but he also declared that the pewter candlesticks Francis Nurse made for the church were not good enough and demanded gold ones. John says that:

for twenty week he preach nothin' but golden candlesticks until he had them.

He then remarks that he thinks Parris dreams of cathedrals rather than clapboard meeting houses. This is a serious slur against Parris as a preacher, since it aligns him with the Anglican church the Puritans came to America to escape, or even the Catholics, rather than the Puritan church of Salem.

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