I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem

I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem

by

Maryse Condé

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem can help.

I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem: Part 1: Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Tituba and John spend the year in Boston while Parris tries to find a parish that will hire him. John gets a job at a tavern, and he is shocked to find how much many of the town’s citizens curse and have sex and drink; “you can’t imagine,” he tells Tituba, “the hypocrisy of the white man’s world.” John also learns that the slave trade is intensifying, and that more and more indigenous people are having their lands stolen.
Tituba lived at the end of the 17th century, when the United States was not yet an independent country and the slave trade was only just beginning. This passage foreshadows the immense death and brutality that white people would inflict on Black and indigenous people in the centuries to come—and highlights the fact that many of the most violent colonizers also claimed to justify their actions through religion.
Themes
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Archival History vs. Memory Theme Icon
Quotes
Back in the house, Parris is always around, making all the women quiet and anxious. Only when he goes for a midday walk do Abigail and Betsey get to be their full selves, playing games and dancing. Sometimes, Tituba takes them to the ocean, which makes her think of Barbados.
Though once the ocean seemed ominous (as it was when Tituba dreading having to “cross the water”), it now symbolizes home. This shift shows how the same landscapes and experiences can hold different meanings depending on context.
Themes
Nature as Knowledge Theme Icon
One day, while walking along the wharf, Tituba sees an old woman being hanged. The sight throws her back into a panic, as she recalls her own mother’s fate. But when Tituba breaks down, Abigail calmly states that the hanging woman “only got what she deserved. She’s a witch.” Tituba is shocked by this “barbarity.”
It is telling that the punishment for witchcraft is the same as the punishment Abena faced for fighting back against assault; to different extents, both slavery and accusations of witchcraft allow white men to retain power through intimidation.
Themes
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon
Tituba realizes she is pregnant, but she decides to abort the baby—slavery is too cruel for her to want to bring someone into it. Indeed, Tituba explains that back in Barbados, it was common for enslaved women to abort their children. But while she would have known all the right plants to use in Barbados, she has no such clarity in Boston.
Yao’s suicide was one testament to the incomprehensible brutality of slavery; Tituba’s decision to abort her child is another. The fact that this practice was common speaks to how many enslaved women felt that a life in slavery was an impossible trap.
Themes
Surviving vs. Enduring Theme Icon
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
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
While Tituba is getting to know her environment, she meets an old woman named Judah White; Judah recognizes Tituba immediately. Judah explains that though she has never left Boston, she is friends with Mama Yaya in the spirit world. The old woman then teaches Tituba about a variety of herbal remedies, and instructs Tituba to pay attention to new animals (like owls and black cats) as conduits of nature’s power.
Tituba’s relationship with Judah White speaks to the importance of legacy, memory, and community; because Tituba loved and stayed connected with Mama Yaya, she now has a new mentor all the way across the ocean. Moreover, Tituba now learns that—contrary to the Parris’ belief—black cats can be used for healing, not for harm.
Themes
Surviving vs. Enduring Theme Icon
Nature as Knowledge Theme Icon
Archival History vs. Memory Theme Icon
Without telling John her plan, Tituba successfully aborts her baby, though she feels very conflicted about this decision. Summer approaches, and Parris announces that he has gotten a job in the small village of Salem. Unfortunately, Salem is notorious for underpaying its ministers and for its conflicts between white settlers and indigenous people. At the tavern, John learns that Parris has not actually finished all his theological studies.
Even if Tituba wants to spare her unborn child pain, it is hard to overcome her instinctive care and maternal feelings. Also of note: Parris is not really qualified for the religious status he claims, which is why he ends up with one of the least desirable ministry jobs in New England.
Themes
Surviving vs. Enduring Theme Icon
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon