How does Miller Characterize Parris: a Closer Look at Reverend Samuel Parris
How it works
Ever heard of the Salem witch trials or The Crucible? Well, Elizabeth Parris was one of the first girls to become affected by an unknown sickness believed to have been witchcraft at the time. In the year 1691, a group of girls began to behave bizarrely; during this time period in Salem, Massachusetts, people feared God and believed that witches had invaded Salem when these girls started to behave in a wild manner. Abigail Williams, who is Elizabeth´s cousin, was the main girl accusing people of witchcraft; she is thought to have manipulated the group of girls to not tell anyone that they dabbled in fortune telling.
Who is Elizabeth Parris, really?
The Salem Witch Trials: A Backdrop to “The Crucible”
In 1691, Salem, a small village in Massachusetts, became a place of chaos. People are turning on each other, and people are being hanged or thrown in jail. How did it become this way? Well, it started when Elizabeth Parris wanted to know about her future, such as her social status and the trade of their future husbands. Elizabeth Parris and her cousin Abigail Williams decided to try fortune telling using something called a “venus glass.” What is a Venus glass? It is an egg white suspended in water that one can see shapes and figures. This fortune-telling secret was shared with other young women in town. That was the beginning of the Salem witch trials. Once people began to believe it was witchcraft that caused the odd behavior, the accused women then accused other women. Some would confess to save themselves, and others who maintained their innocence would be killed. Eventually, it was shown that the girls had faked most of their behavior.
How Did Elizabeth Parris Characterize Salem?
Elizabeth Parris was one of the first girls to behave wildly. It began in January; she had forgotten to do something, then found it hard to concentrate and seemed to have been preoccupied. During prayer time, her father, Reverend Samuel Parris, said the “Our Father” prayer. She began to bark like a dog and overall screaming; she then proceeded to throw a Bible across the room. Her father believed that prayer would cure her bizarre behavior, but nothing worked. The afflicted girls, including Elizabeth, accused Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and a slave Tituba of the witches that hurt them. Elizabeth did testify at the trials.
During the trials, Elizabeth would have an “episode” of crying out when whoever was on trial would move their arms, legs, or head, trying to portray that the accused person was hurting them from across the room. Her father was worried about her and sent her to leave with his cousin; her symptoms began to fade. Years later, in 1710, Elizabeth met her husband, Benjamin Baron, whom she had four children with. She later died on March 21, 1760, when she became ill.
Miller’s Interpretation: How Does He Characterize Parris in “The Crucible”?
The Salem witch trials inspired Arthur Miller to write The Crucible, which is a play that takes place during the trials. The Crucible is historical fiction because it is historically correct with characters and dates, but he twists the story a little so it becomes fictional. For example the affair between Abigail Williams and John Proctor, both characters really existed, but there is no real evidence of an affair; plus, John would have been really old at the time of the trials, and Abigail would have been around the age of eleven at the time.
Who is Elizabeth Parris? Well, Elizabeth was a little girl who got caught up in wanting to know her future and made a bad decision that led her to be the cause of many innocent people being hanged. The Salem witch trials, in general, were because people were so afraid that they easily would believe a group of little girls so much that they would accuse each other and create chaos. Arthur Miller found these trials to be so interesting that he wrote a play, and kids around the world are reading it in classrooms still today. Even today, people still find the Salem witch trials fascinating, there have been movies made, books, and plays have been written.
- Miller, A. (1953). The Crucible: A Play in Four Acts. Viking Press.
- Boyer, P., & Nissenbaum, S. (Eds.). (1977). Salem-Village Witchcraft: A Documentary Record of Local Conflict in Colonial New England. Northeastern University Press.
- Rosenthal, B. (1993). Salem Story: Reading the Witch Trials of 1692. Cambridge Historical Journal, 7(2), 193-211.