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Reverend Samuel Parris (The Crucible)

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"There is a faction that is sworn to drive me from my pulpit. Do you understand that?"
~ Reverend Parris

Reverend Samuel Parris is the tertiary antagonist in Arthur Miller's The Crucible. The play is partially inspired from the Salem Witch trials of 1692, and was used as an allegory for the Red Scare that happened during the Cold War in the 1960s.

In The Crucible

Parris was the corrupt reverend who reigned over the Puritan church. He was very greedy and self-absorbed, and as a result he was despised by all the inhabitants of Salem. He would force people to give him worldly possessions or else they would burn in Hell, and referred to everyone as his enemies that sought to destroy him. Before the play began, he witnessed his daughter Betty and his niece Abigail dancing in front of a bonfire with his servant Tituba who was leading them in a Barbados chant. Suddenly, Betty fell to the ground unconscious and Parris ran over. However, he was more concerned that his role as a reverend would be jeopardized if he confessed to there being witchcraft in his house than the fact that his own daughter is unresponsive. He later calls Reverend Hale to diagnose his daughter. As a result of him hiring Hale to check his daughter for any ailments, Parris started a ripple effect which would eventually lead to more people being accused.

In Act III, Parris began to take part in the trials, and cheered when John Proctor was found guilty of being the Devil's man. However, in Act IV, Reverend Parris tried to convince Danforth into postponing the hangings and giving Proctor a chance to confess to witchcraft and spare his life - the reason behind this being that Parris feared that if a respected man like Proctor were to be executed, the town would rise against him (he came to this conclusion after he found a dagger in his front door).

Parris desperately attempted to get John Proctor to lie about being a witch as a means to spare both John's execution and the town revolting. John decides to keep his life, but later wishes to hang once he realized that his name would be written on a document which would then be posted to the door of the church. At the end of the play, Proctor is hung, and Parris leaves Salem, failing to save anyone.

Personality

Parris is a truly despicable person. He is more concerned with his own public image and safety rather than his family or others in the village. In addition to his cowardly nature, he is extremely greedy (constantly wanting more firewood, the deed to his house and golden candlesticks for his church, rather than pewter candlesticks, and crying when Abigail steals all of his money), cruel, paranoid and judgmental.

When Abigail flees with his money, he worries about himself rather than his niece's well-being. His motivation behind trying to get John Proctor to confess to witchcraft is because he is worried that the town will turn against him and murder him in revenge. This proves that Reverend Parris is always concerned for himself and not his actions or the effects they cause.

Arthur Miller, the author of The Crucible, says in his notes that he found nothing likable about the real-life Samuel Parris and felt no need to make his fictional equivalent any better.

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