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PARRIS, studies here, then nods, half convinced: Abigail, I have fought here three long years to bend these stiff-necked people to me, and now, just now when some good respect is rising for me in the parish, you compromise my very character. I have given you a home, child. I have put clothes upon your back – now give me an upright answer. Your name in the town – it is entirely white, is it not?
ABIGAIL, with an edge of resentment: Why, I am sure it is, sir. There be no blush about my name.
PARRIS, to the point: Abigail, is there any other cause than you have told me, for your being discharged from Goody Proctor’s service? I have heard it said, and I tell you as I heard it, that she come so rarely to the church this year for she will not sit so close to something soiled. What signified that remark?
ABIGAIL: She hates me, uncle, she must, for I would not be her slave. It’s a bigger woman, a lying, cold, sniveling woman, and I will not work for such a woman! (I.63-66)
After seeing the girls dancing in the forest, Parris recognizes the possibility that the witchcraft being practiced has originated in his own household, and he worries about the possible danger to his reputation if the townsfolk learn that his daughter and niece could be consorting with the devil. More to the point: the townspeople may already have heard rumors that Abigail is not a proper girl, if Elizabeth Proctor has been talking about her in the town.
MRS. PUTNAM: Reverend Parris, I have laid seven babies unbaptized in the earth. Believe me, sir, you never saw more hearty babies born. And yet, each would wither in my arms the very night of their birth. I have spoke nothin', but my heart has clamored intimations. And now, this year, my Ruth, my only – I see her turning strange. A secret child she has become this year, and shrivels like a sucking mouth were pullin’ on her life too. And so I thought to send her to your Tituba-
PARRIS: To Tituba! What may Tituba-?
MRS. PUTNAM: Tituba knows how to speak to the dead, Mr. Parris.
PARRIS: Goody Ann, it is a formidable sin to conjure up the dead!
MRS. PUTNAM: I take it on my soul, but who else may surely tell us what person murdered my babies?
PARRIS, horrified: Woman!
MRS. PUTNAM: They were murdered, Mr. Parris! And mark this proof! Last night my Ruth were ever so close to their little spirits; I know it, sir. For how else is she struck dumb now except some power of darkness would stop her mouth? It is a marvelous sign, Mr. Parris! (I.103-109)
Parris is only concerned with his reputation; Mrs. Putnam is only concerned about getting justice for her dead babies. When things go wrong, the people of Salem need someone to blame for it. Things don’t just happen for no reason. This may seem strange to us, but life was considerably more difficult for the early Puritans, so we have to consider that Mrs. Putnam’s reaction is not wholly irrational.
ABIGAIL, with a bitter anger: Oh, I marvel how such a strong man may let such a sickly wife be-
PROCTOR, angered-at himself as well: You'll speak nothin' of Elizabeth!
ABIGAIL: She is blackening my name in the village! She is telling lies about me! She is a cold, sniveling woman, and you bend to her! Let her turn you like a-
PROCTOR, shaking her: Do you look for whippin'? (I.202-205)
Abigail accuses Elizabeth Proctor of damaging her reputation, and she also maligns the man she loves. Elizabeth will later admit that there is some truth to the charge that she is “cold.” But “sniveling”? Now that’s just a low blow.