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Analyse Reverend Parris and his motivations in supporting the witch trials. The crucible play is set in 17th century Puritan Massachusetts in America. This would have meant the area would be fairly newly inhabited by immigrants and there still might be problems from Native Americans. The society probably would have been quite close-knit and any accusations of witchcraft would easily have resulted in hysteria in a way that was only possible in modern days because of the media.
Reverend Parris would have had many reasons for supporting the witch trials. Most of these were selfish and for protection of his own image, which he needed to do because in the setting of the Salem Witch Trials peoples image were their most important aspect, we know this because the first three people to be accused of witchcraft were all social misfits such as Osborn who, “was old, quarrelsome, and had not attended church for over a year.” Other reasons included jealousy, especially of Proctor who in his presence “a fool felt his foolishness instantly”. As well as this there was his duty as a Reverend
First we know Parris was very greedy because he wanted things like “golden candle sticks” on his preaching altar, even though his church is Puritan and therefore meant to be very simple “their creed forbade anything resembling a theatre or ‘vain enjoyment'”. This may also have been a motivation for supporting the witch trials because the land of people like John Proctor would have been seized after he was hung.
Reverend Parris was also very paranoid about his position in the town and about conspiracies to ‘drive him from his pulpit’. Another piece of evidence from the play that portrays his paranoia is that he ‘felt insulted if someone rose to shut the door without first asking his permission’. This shows paranoia because he thinks the slightest mistake in his presence is made as a serious insult. All of this is backed up by how Miller describes him with “he believed he was being persecuted wherever he went”.
This is the second motivation for supporting the trials because if he destroys all his opposition by having them hung or sent to prison for witchcraft his own public standing will be safe. This theory is also basically what the whole Salem witch trials play is about, because all the way through we see a repetition of people blaming others to save their skins. A perfect example of this is on ‘HTTP://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Crucible’ where it describes a very desperate Mary “Mary becomes completely desperate and turns on John Proctor, saying that he is in league with the Devil.”
We know already Parris is very selfish and also very keen to protect and even increase his self image. So when witch craft is first mentioned he becomes very nervous and tries to stop any talk of the subject, ‘put out all thoughts of unnatural forces’. This could be for several reasons. First he wants to protect Abigail, although from what we have seen of the Parris character so far he probably is not that bothered about this. The main reason for Parris wanting people not to talk about the witchcraft is because if Abigail, who is his own Niece, is linked to witchcraft then he may be driven from his pulpit by the conspiracy group he thinks is already fighting him.
There is even the possibility that Abigail could be seen as a Harlot after Proctor accuses it and it becomes clear that the reason for Abigail’s grudge against the Proctors is because she was put “out for a harlot”. We know that he thinks there is a conspiracy group because of the quote, “there is a faction”. When he finally does realise that the talk of witchcraft is inevitable he starts to support the trials to try and take the blame from Abigail and on to her so called bewitchers. He also knows if the trial fails and Abigail is labelled a liar then the entire family may be known as liars, this in turn would be devastating to his already troubled career.
The final motivation for Reverend Parris supporting the witch trials is jealousy. Jealousy is obviously one of Parris’ characteristics and he is jealous of John Proctor. Reverend Parris would have several reasons for being jealous of Proctor; firstly he is well respected in the Salem community, ‘Proctor, respected and feared’, this cannot be said for Parris, Proctor is also quite wealthy with a lot of land and for a greedy Parris the prospect of seizing this would be very appealing! The final reason for Parris being jealous of Proctor and maybe even hating him is that Proctor is simply a good and honest man. Then there is Parris who ‘there is very little good to be said of him’.
Reverend Parris is meant to be a respectful member of Puritan society. However, before he moved to Salem he was a sugar plantation owner, owned slaves (such as Tituba) and was thought to have been a credit agent for other plantation owners. This quite shrewd and probably selfish personality shows in the crucible for instance when Abigail runs away he doesn’t care for her but says “thirty one pound is gone” then says “I am penniless”.
This evaluation provides a good background to why Parris supported the witch trials. So overall Parris supports the Salem Witch trails because of a mixture of jealousy of Proctor, protecting his and his families image, a hatred of heathens and therefore witches, paranoia about the danger of his position as local Reverend and possibly the most important reason of all… is his greed. He wanted more pay and even gold candlesticks for his altar.