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 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
While she travels to America, Tituba gets to know Parris’s sickly wife Elizabeth; they bond because Elizabeth seems to hate Parris almost as much as Tituba does. But Parris is deeply prejudiced against Black people and forbids his wife from spending time with Tituba. Tituba wonders what is at the root of Elizabeth’s constant sickness.
Like Jennifer Davis before her, Elizabeth is always ill—which implies that part of what ails these women is their relationships with these racist, cruel men. Keeping an eye toward the book's intersectional lens, Tituba’s friendship with Elizabeth—based in female solidarity —is disrupted by a white man’s anti-Blackness.  
Themes
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon
Tituba meets Abigail, Parris’s teenaged niece, and Betsey, his young daughter; she reflects that these girls have lost their childhood to the sternness of Parris’s religious life, and this allows Tituba to empathize with them. Meanwhile, John is back to his usual self, making jokes and playing games with the sailors on board.
Here, Tituba begins to feel a connection to all of the Parris women, especially because she sees them as linked to her in their shared fear of Samuel. This is another moment in which Tituba and John’s differences come through: Tituba is tender and reflective whereas John seeks out distraction.
Themes
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon
At night, Parris interrupts Tituba and John when they are about to have sex to force them to pray (alongside Elizabeth, Betsey, and Abigail). When Tituba does not want to confess her private thoughts, Parris slaps her—and when Elizabeth tries to stand up for Tituba, Parris slaps his wife as well. 
Parris refuses to let Tituba have any kind of privacy, interrupting her intimate moments with John and forcing her to share even her most interior self. This denial of privacy was another major way in which slaveholders tried to disrupt and claim control over Black life.
Themes
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon
Though Tituba feels an instant distrust for Abigail, she forms strong friendships with Elizabeth and Betsey. Tituba tells the two women stories, braids their hair, and helps them deal with their various sicknesses. Eventually, Tituba realizes that Elizabeth is pregnant, which Parris does not seem aware of. Elizabeth explains that Parris never looks at her body, and that he does not even take off his clothes when they have sex. Tituba cannot understand this because in her mind, nothing is more “beautiful than a woman’s body! Especially when it is glorified by a man’s desire!”
Tituba braids Elizabeth’s hair just as her mother braided Jennifer’s, further strengthening the parallel between the two friendships. More important, though, is Tituba’s insight into the Parris’ sex life. While John and Tituba embrace sex as a “glorious,” natural, form of tenderness, Samuel Parris fears it. Perhaps part of Elizabeth’s sense of illness and disconnection from her body stems from Parris’s refusal to be truly intimate with her.
Themes
Nature as Knowledge Theme Icon
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon
Get the entire I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem LitChart as a printable PDF.
I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem PDF
At last, they all arrive in Boston. Tituba is surprised both by how busy the city is and by how rainy and grey it seems to be; she also notices that here, too, there are enslaved Africans. When the family arrives at their house, they are horrified to see a black cat run across the entry. Tituba is amused to find that these Christians view the black cat as a symbol of witchcraft.
This is another moment in which Condé toys with the contrast between Tituba’s beliefs and those of her enslavers. Whereas Tituba sees the black cat as a harmless animal, the Parris’ are terrified by it—in part because they seem to fear the very idea of blackness.
Themes
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Nature as Knowledge Theme Icon
Quotes
That night, Parris wakes Tituba up, informing her that he believes Elizabeth is about to die. Tituba decides to use some of Mama Yaya’s techniques to bring Elizabeth back to health—but since she is in a very different climate, she has to substitute New England greenery for tropical plants. Still, with her skills and prayers, Tituba is able to heal Elizabeth, and Elizabeth credits Tituba with saving her life.
There are two key occurrences to note in this passage. First, Tituba must adapt her healing practices to the climate she is in; knowledge, the book frequently suggests, is shaped by the world around you. Second, Tituba saves Elizabeth’s life, further cementing their closeness.
Themes
Nature as Knowledge Theme Icon
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon