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 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Compared to Boston, Salem is extremely rural; there are less than 2,000 people, and cows wander the streets. Tituba, John, and the Parris family arrive at their new home, and Abigail runs into the house, excited to explore. Parris chastises her for this burst of energy, causing Tituba to feel some sympathy for the teenager.
It is striking just how rural Salem was; in addition to having minimal infrastructure, the residents lived in isolation and in fear of animals, blistering cold and scorching heat. Indeed, scholars have suggested that harsh climates magnified the town’s hysteria.
Themes
Archival History vs. Memory Theme Icon
An older woman named Mary Sibley greets them on behalf of the congregation. Goodwife Sibley is surprised to learn that Parris has Black people working for him, and she is also curious about what makes Elizabeth so ill. Goodwife Sibley tells Tituba that two women (the wives of the previous ministers) have died in this house, and Tituba feels a sense of foreboding.
Right away, Mary Sibley reveals two things about the town. One, there are not very many Black people in Salem, though the townspeople have a great deal of prejudice. And two, every detail of other people’s private life (from marital troubles to illness) is viewed as public knowledge.
Themes
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
All the villagers from Salem, including John Proctor and Anne Putnam, come to greet (and do some snooping around) Parris. While Parris hems and haws over the specifics of his salary, Tituba and John celebrate having the attic all to themselves.
Parris is more concerned with his salary than his religious duties, which is further evidence of his hypocrisy. In better news, Tituba and John can at last be alone; sex is an important part of their relationship, so the ability to have real intimacy is meaningful.
Themes
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon
Quickly, Tituba becomes a point of interest for many of the teenage girls in the town (especially Anne Putnam and her servant, Mercy Lewis). Led by Abigail, these girls push Tituba for stories about the devil. Tituba pities these girls, because she feels they are not being allowed to express themselves or experience the joys and hardships of puberty. But she also distrusts them, especially Abigail; Tituba fears “the power of [Abigail’s] imagination” and the “hatred she had for the adult world, as if she could not forgive it for building a coffin around her youth.”
In isolated, patriarchal Salem, none of the teenagers have much to keep their minds occupied, and their budding sexual desires and feelings are suppressed. Abigail and the other pubescent girls thus seize on Tituba, one of the few Black women in the town, as someone onto whom to project their wildest, most carnal fantasies.
Themes
Slavery and Daily Life  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
Eventually, more and more girls gather in Tituba’s kitchen to ask about people in league with the devil. As a joke, Tituba mentions the name of Sarah Goode, a local beggar; someone then asks about Sarah Osborne, a wealthy woman who is mocked because of a sexual incident in her past. Abigail presses Tituba to name Elizabeth Proctor, but Tituba will not.
More of the town dynamics now come into view. Like Tituba, Goode and Osborne are also regarded as conspicuous “others” in the town (because of their poverty and sexuality, respectively). And in the play The Crucible, Abigail has had an affair with John Proctor, and her ulterior motive for the accusations is to have Proctor’s wife Elizabeth killed.
Themes
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon
When Betsey begins to feel disturbed by these stories, Tituba assures her that “Tituba can do anything. Tituba knows everything. Tituba sees everything.” But Betsey tells some of the older girls about this, which makes them wonder if Tituba is a witch. Life begins to feel more and more frightening for Tituba, and she finds herself unable to be calm.
In a painful turn of events, the very knowledge that Tituba uses to comfort Betsey is twisted and used against her by Abigail and her friends. And in general, it is paradoxically Tituba’s capacity to heal—to do good—that the white residents of Salem use as evidence of her “witchcraft.”  
Themes
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Nature as Knowledge Theme Icon
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon
To ease her homesickness, Tituba fills a bowl with water and imagines the bowl is Barbados. The sympathy she feels for Elizabeth and Betsey fades when she realizes that their pain is different; they long for an easy life where they are waited on hand and foot, whereas even in Tituba’s happiest memories, she remains enslaved. No matter how much affection they show each other, Tituba comes to terms with the fact that she, Betsey, and Elizabeth “do not exist in the same universe.” 
This vital passage illustrates just how profoundly damaging enslavement is. Even Tituba’s happiest memories—of the only home she has ever known—are marked by captivity, violence, and a lack of bodily autonomy. Thus, even though she has some degree of female solidarity with Elizabeth and Betsey, slavery and anti-Blackness cause the women to have more differences than similarities.
Themes
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon
Quotes
As Betsey gets increasingly anxious, Tituba decides to give her a magic bath, plunging her into water meant to replicate amniotic fluid; this ritual makes her feel some sort of closure around her recent abortion. After the bath, Betsey sleeps soundly, while Tituba goes to pour the hot water on the ground. As she reflects on how different night is in Salem than in Barbados, Tituba feels the presence of Mama Yaya and Abena.
Tituba has had wonderful female mentors and guides, and so she tries to extend the same to Betsey—even while Betsey betrays her. Again, Tituba’s instinctive desire to heal is evident in this moment, as she shows Betsey some of the kindness she would have shown to her unborn child.
Themes
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon