Parris as a Symbol of Religion
In ancient societies, witchcraft was a reality and witch-hunting common. However, the development of religion dominated the presiding societies, overcoming the preference of witchcraft allegations. In Arthur Miller’s, The Crucible, the protagonist is a local minister who vehemently advocates against witchcraft and encourages embracing religion as the only way to living a fulfilling life. He feels rejected by the people and the only way to redeem his honor is continuing to preach the gospel. The witch-hunting endeavors going around him discourages his efforts and he ends up concluding that he may never achieve his purpose despite his fierce commitment. Hence, in The Crucible, Parris understands that life is a challenging undertaking that may never turn out as one expects.
At the start of the play, Parris believes that the solution to all problems can be found in the religion. When his daughter, Betty, gets sick when playing in the forest with her cousin Abigail and other girls, Parris is quick to call the Reverend when the doctor suggests that the cause of Betty’s illness may be unnatural. He says, “Let him look to medicine and put out all thought of unnatural causes here” (7). The remark shows that he does not believe in witchcraft as the doctor suggests because of his religious standings. He is convinced that witchcraft does not exist and thus, her daughter cannot be bewitched. This argument is well-supported by his actions as the play commences. He is portrayed kneeling besides her daughter’s bed praying and weeping. He intends to communicate the idea that religion has a solution to every problem, like he expects the Reverend to reinforce his argument the soonest he arrives at his home.
Amidst the troubles confronting him, from the intentions to remove him from the ministry to his sick daughter, Parris wants to know the truth from Abigail about what transpired in the forest. He says, “And I pray you feel the weight of truth upon you, for now my ministry is at stake, my ministry and perhaps your cousin’s life” (9). This remark shows his desperation to make everything right in his life to ensure he continues his ministry. Ministering is the only things that seems to define his identity besides giving his life some essence. It is easier to discern his frantic attempt to remain in the ministry and continue speaking against the unnatural spirits.
As the play develops, Parris discloses his frustration with the church and enables the reader to understand another source of his problems in life. When asked why he does not mention God anymore when preaching, he reveals his frustration in a way the reader sympathizes with him. When talking of firewood, Proctor tells him that he is paid an allowance of six pounds and should manage it. Parris says, “I am not some preaching farmer with a book under my arm; I am a graduate of Harvard College” (25). The argument shows his defeated spirit despite committing to spreading the religion. In the instance, his character developed from a reserved to an open person, capable of speaking out his problems to his friends. However, they reinforce his conformity instead of providing a progressive solution to his concerns.
Parris further develops into a furious person, who is ready to take stringent actions against those defying his wish. In one instance when talking with Tituba, he asks her, “You will confess yourself or I will take you out and whip you to your death, Tituba” (39). Although he has displayed fury towards Tituba in the start of the play, his agitation increases with time. When warning Tituba to go away from Betty, he did not threaten her with death. However, in the above remark, he threatens to kill her with a thorough beating. This instance portrays the progression of his character into an inhumane person regardless of his minister status. Besides, it portrays the hypocritical nature of religious people, who occasionally mistreated the servants. Hence, his character revelation is displayed as having a negative advancement.
In The Crucible, Parris developpes from an ardent religious person to a cruel and easily agitated individual. He reveals the problems confronting him in the ministry that threatens his minister career, such as the attempts to oust him and the insufficient salary he takes home. His sick daughter situation overwhelms him and the rumors she is bewitched threatens his career more. Although he refuses to believe in witchcraft and defends her illness as natural, he discovers that she was involved in calling the spirits of the dead. As more truth is revealed, his hidden character develops from a strictly religious person to a cruel individual capable of heinous acts.
- Miller, Arthur. The Crucible.