Tituba meets and flirts with John Indian, a handsome man born to an indigenous father and a Nago mother. John explains that he is enslaved by Susanna Endicott, an old widow. He invites Tituba to a dance at Carlisle Bay the following Sunday, and Tituba—desperate to see him again—promises to attend. After he leaves, she sacrifices a chicken and summons Mama Yaya.
Tituba’s attraction to John Indian quite literally reshapes her geography; instead of confining herself to the edges of plantations, she now is willing to traverse the island, putting herself at greater risk by being in proximity to white enslavers.
Tituba wants to make John love her, but Yaya cautions that “men do not love. They possess.” She also warns that John is notorious for having slept with many of the women on the island. Still, Yaya promises that if Tituba brings her a drop of John’s blood, the old woman will ensure his love. Tituba finds herself overcome with desire, and she masturbates thinking about John. For the first time, Tituba considers what her body and face look like, and she cuts her hair. Abena’s spirit arrives, lamenting that women “can’t do without men” and ominously warning Tituba that her love for John Indian will bring her “across the water.”
Mama Yaya and Abena here illustrate a central pitfall of Tituba’s life: though men are often oppressive and harmful, attraction is a natural, inescapable (and sometimes wonderful) part of life. Already, though, it is clear that Tituba’s feelings for John Indian are changing how she moves through the world, as she grows self-conscious for the first time in the novel. Also worth noting: the ominous phrase “across the water” has ties to the very beginning of the novel, when Abena was captured and taken across the Atlantic Ocean into slavery.
On Sunday, Tituba goes to the dance, and she learns that it is Carnival: the only time of year when enslaved people are able to have celebrations of their own. Though John is dancing with another woman, Tituba interrupts, and they share a special moment. When Tituba scratches John to get a drop of his blood for Yaya, John calls her a witch. Tituba wonders why it is a bad thing to be thought of as a witch, since “the ability to communicate with the invisible world” is a “superior gift of nature.”
Carnival occurs in late February/early March, and it is a time of celebration before Lent, or the period in Christianity that focuses on sacrifice and fasting; Tituba is thus starting to understand that many enslavers also claim to be observant Christians. This is also the first time Tituba hears herself described as a “witch”—a term that confuses her, given that she sees her skills merely as “natur[al],” a way of connecting the physical world to the intangible one.
John and Tituba become a couple, but he refuses to live with her in her house in the woods. Instead, he wants her to convert to Christianity and come live with him at Susanna Endicott’s house. Tituba reflects on just how cruel white men have been to her family, raping and then killing her mother. Yet her desire for John Indian is strong enough to make her willingly rejoin “the white man’s world.”
Whereas Tituba wants to live in nature, avoiding whiteness as much as she can, John Indian is in some ways drawn to the colonial world. And once more, Tituba must contend with her own desire as a powerful force, capable of shaping her behavior even more than some of her most traumatic memories do.
A week later, after feeling shame, panic, and remorse, Tituba sets her animals free and packs up her mother’s dresses. As she thinks gratefully of all the food these animals have provided for her, she begins to head to Susanna Endicott and Carlisle Bay.
Symbolically, this passage shows that in moving to Susanna Endicott’s house and the world of slavery, Tituba is also moving away from nature and all of its gifts (animals and food, for example).