I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem

I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem

by

Maryse Condé

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I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem: Part 1: Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Tituba learns more about Parris’s religion, in which every strange occurrence or mishap is blamed on Satan. Tituba recalls from her experience with Susanna that many white people believe that Tituba’s Blackness makes her a “visible messenger” of Satan. Indeed, many of the residents of Salem come up to Tituba asking her to harness Satan’s power against their friends and family. Sometimes, Tituba even notices villagers trying (and failing) to use plants to do magic of their own.
Earlier, John has remarked on the hypocrisy he observes in white Puritan Christianity; now, the Puritans try to use religious ideas of Satan to justify their own anti-Blackness. And at the same time, the very people who claim to live in fear of Satan try to harness devilish magic for their own purposes (though they lack all of Tituba’s knowledge of the natural world).
Themes
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Nature as Knowledge Theme Icon
Quotes
Tituba’s knowledge of the villagers’ worst impulses unsettles her. Worse still, Parris hires John out to a neighbor, meaning Tituba barely ever gets to see or sleep with him. Unable to relax, Tituba begins frequenting the woods late at night. As she stops sleeping and eating, Tituba feels alienated from herself, and her appearance changes; John complains that she is “neglecting” to take care of how she looks.
The only source of comfort for Tituba now is the nature that surrounds her—John Indian is hardly ever around, and when he is, he is more focused on misogynistically critiquing Tituba’s appearance than he is on empathizing with her anxiety.
Themes
Nature as Knowledge Theme Icon
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon
One night, Tituba encounters Sarah, another enslaved Black woman. Sarah is routinely beaten by the woman she works for, and she hopes Tituba will help her kill this cruel slaveholder. But Tituba refuses, citing the words of Mama Yaya and Abena: “don’t become like them, knowing only how to do evil.”
Tituba’s notion of personal integrity (her desire to distinguish herself from the cruel, white “them”) comes directly from the women who raised her—and also, perhaps, from her sense that there is a very active, almost tangible spirit world, able to give comfort when reality becomes difficult to bear.
Themes
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon
Archival History vs. Memory Theme Icon
Sarah pushes back, insisting that “knowledge must adapt itself to society”—and so, now that Tituba is in a majority-white society instead of a largely Black one, she must change her mental framework. Tituba is tempted by Sarah’s argument, but she still refuses to do evil.
Tituba resists Sarah’s framework to some extent, but there is also lots of truth in Sarah’s words. Just as Tituba must use new plants and animals in a new location, she must also change her approach to life in a new town with a new kind of people.
Themes
Nature as Knowledge Theme Icon
Quotes
Get the entire I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem LitChart as a printable PDF.
I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem PDF
On her way home, she passes Goodwife Rebecca Nurse, a kindly older woman. At first, Goodwife Nurse seems to want simply to chat—but then, she asks Tituba to punish her neighbors with magic. Tituba is furious that everyone views her in this way, and even more angry that everyone wants to force her to do evil.
Historical records show that Goodwife Nurse was one of the wealthiest, most respected women in town. But even community pillars like Goodwife Nurse try to enlist Tituba for their own ends, showing just how backstabbing the village really is.
Themes
Archival History vs. Memory Theme Icon
After a few weeks in which Abigail, Betsey, and their friends become increasingly obsessed with magic, Betsey turns rigid and falls ill. Tituba is horrified to see that, even after all the care she has showered on young Betsey, Elizabeth blames her for this sickness.
Elizabeth’s quick turn affirms what Tituba has already begun to sense—that any notion of female friendship or solidarity with Elizabeth (or perhaps any white woman) is ultimately undermined by prejudice.
Themes
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon
The next morning, when Tituba approaches to serve the Parris family breakfast, Betsey begins screaming inhuman screams. Abigail takes in the situation for a moment, and then she makes a calculated decision to join Betsey in the screaming. When Elizabeth outright accuses Tituba, Tituba reminds her of all the times she has been a healing force.
Tituba has saved both Elizabeth and Betsey from the brink of death, but conveniently, neither of the Parris adults seems able to recall that information. Also, Abigail’s calculated decision ties back to her role in The Crucible, in which she is the primary instigator of the witchcraft panic.
Themes
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Archival History vs. Memory Theme Icon
The screaming disturbs the neighbors, who rush over to see what is going on in the Parris house. As Parris tries to reassure them that nothing is wrong, Tituba resolves to give up on Mama Yaya’s “humanitarian” outlook; instead, she will accept that “those around me were as ferocious as the wolves […] and I had to become as ferocious as they were.” However, it feels difficult for Tituba to do evil, since she believes she was born a fundamentally good person.
Whereas only a few weeks ago, Tituba refused to take Sarah’s advice about adapting to her environment, now she wants to become as “ferocious” as the people around her. But once again, Tituba’s innate kindness gets in the way of her drive to survive.
Themes
Surviving vs. Enduring Theme Icon
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon