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The Crucible by Arthur Miller - Barron's Booknotes

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REVEREND SAMUEL PARRIS

At the beginning of the play, when his little girl Betty
lies sick on her bed, Reverend Parris is less worried
about her condition than about what the neighbors will
think if it turns out Betty is "witched." Like a lot of
selfish people, he feels persecuted: anyone who
disagrees with Reverend Parris is his enemy, part of a
conspiracy that's out to "get him." He is convinced that
John Proctor is the leader of this conspiracy, because
Proctor's always criticizing him. Proctor doesn't come to
church anymore because, as he says, Reverend Parris
can talk of nothing but hell and damnation-"Take it to
heart, Mr. Parris. There are many others who stay away
from church these days because you hardly ever mention
God any more."

Parris also seems to be greedy. Proctor tells Reverend
Hale in Act II that Parris can't "pray to God without he
have golden candlesticks upon the altar." Parris claims
that in addition to his salary Salem him owes him money
for firewood, and he wants the deed to his house-two
things no minister had demanded before.

Parris is unhappy in Salem, and maybe he has his
reasons. He says at one point, "I cannot offer one
proposition without there be a howling riot of
argument." In the past few years, two ministers had left
Salem in disgust with the town's contentiousness and
stinginess. Thomas Putnam had even had one of them,
George Burroughs, put in jail for debts he did not owe.
On top of that, Parris is a Harvard graduate, which his
predecessors were not, so he feels he deserves more
than, the town is willing to give.

Whatever the reasons for his discontent, Reverend Parris
doesn't seem to be a very nice person anyway. He bullies
and mistreats his servant Tituba, and tries to do the same
with Abigail. But he flatters and fawns on those in
power, such as Thomas Putnam and Danforth. With
everyone else he is arrogant and sometimes downright
insulting.



Almost every time he opens his mouth it is to attack
someone. When the court is first set up, he hides behind
it like a child behind a parent, and he loses no chance to
set the court against his "enemies," especially John
Proctor. When Francis Nurse presents the court with a
petition in favor of his wife Rebecca, it is Parris' idea
that the 91 people who signed the petition should be
arrested. As long as the court is in power, Parris is its
staunchest support. But in Act IV, when the town is
beginning to turn against the court, Parris is the first to
look for a way out.

Imagine his horror when Abigail disappears at the end of
the play. The court has lost its star witness, the leader of
the girls on whose testimony all the witches have been
hanged. Parris himself has lost a niece, but worst of all,
Abigail robbed his strongbox before she left, and now
he's penniless. As Salem's pastor, he should have
protected his flock. Not only did he let the wolves into
the fold, he joined in the attack. Now the wolves are in
trouble, and Parris is left without a friend in the world.

It's hard to feel sorry for the Reverend Samuel Parris.
But there is something pathetic about a man who is so
insecure that he has to persecute others to save his own
skin.

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