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 2: Chapter 13 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Tituba is determined to increase her powers, so she begins asking local obeah men and women for their secrets. When one of the men learns that Tituba was an accused witch at Salem, he wonders why she did not try to bewitch the entire village—that way, she would be remembered forever as the “demon of Salem.” Instead, she will be written down in history only as “Tituba, a slave originating from the West Indies and probably practicing ‘hoodoo.’”
Obeah refers to a practice of spiritual healing originating with the Ashanti people; it is rooted in the use of tropical plants and herbal medicines. And fascinatingly, though Tituba has often shied away from accusations of witchcraft, the local obeah practitioners encourage Tituba to use her powers to rewrite her historical legacy beyond the reductive phrase she gets in the archives.
Themes
Nature as Knowledge Theme Icon
Archival History vs. Memory Theme Icon
Quotes
Before Tituba returns to the maroon camp, the obeah man reminds her that there are certain natural secrets she can never learn while still living; after all, “only death brings supreme knowledge.” On her way home, Tituba is stopped by a group of enslaved women, who inform her that some of the white planters in Barbados believe she is trying to plan slave revolts. Because of this, they are trying to kill her.
This passage represents a central contradiction in Tituba’s life. On the one hand, she is reminded of the limits of her powers—no matter how much she learns, she will never reach “supreme knowledge” while still on earth. And on the other hand, white people attribute all kinds of nefarious power to Tituba (and then use those rumors as an excuse to persecute her).
Themes
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Nature as Knowledge Theme Icon
Once again, Tituba cannot believe the evil that permeates so much of human society. She heads home, where she informs Christopher that she is unable to make him invincible. But while Tituba wants to fight the white people on the island, Christopher feels that “a woman’s duty” is only “to make love.”
In a striking parallel to John Indian, Christopher, too, views Tituba not as an equal partner but as a vessel for his own sexual pleasure. This exchange once more demonstrates how all of Tituba’s romances are colored by misogyny.
Themes
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon
Despite the threat of the planters, Tituba spends the next few months happily. First, she helps save a dying baby, which makes her think of the babies she and Hester aborted. Then, a few weeks later, Tituba and Christopher become lovers, though she cannot quite shake her pleasurable memories of John Indian.
Tituba frequently thinks about the present moment in terms of large-scale historical memory—but here, it is also clear how much her present is affected by her more intimate, more personal history. Each experience in Barbados now makes her think of a moment in Salem, whether pleasurable (like sex with John) or awful (like aborting her baby).
Themes
Archival History vs. Memory Theme Icon
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Christopher begins to confide in Tituba, revealing that the maroons do not have enough weapons to successfully fight back against the white plantation owners. One night, he sings a song about himself, and Tituba asks him, “is there a song for me? A song for Tituba?” Christopher replies that there is not. Frustrated, Tituba reflects on the gender dynamics within the group of maroons; though the women rely on her as a healer, they also resent her because of her relationship with Christopher.
Though Christopher may not be written about in history books, he is determined to persist in oral history (like his hero Ti-Noel). But while he is invested in his own “song,” he gives no such courtesy to Tituba, who again frets about being forgotten. Even in a group focused on Black rebellion and liberation, then, Tituba struggles against the constraints of sexism.
Themes
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon
Archival History vs. Memory Theme Icon
As Tituba gets to know the female maroons more, they begin to question her about the scope of her powers. Tituba points out that if she were really all-powerful, she would have done much more, including ending slavery entirely. These comments are reported back to Christopher, who demeans Tituba, telling her she does not deserve to be treated as “special.” After some urging from Mama Yaya and Abena, who criticize her continued reliance on men, Tituba decides to leave the maroons. The other women help her pack up her things, while Christopher does nothing.
Finally, Tituba is able to make the limits of her powers known to those around her. But rather than finding sympathy and understanding, Tituba finds cruelty; Christopher’s words, in particular, feel like a gendered form of criticism. Tituba’s decision to leave—without help from her former lover—can thus be seen as a feminist act, in which she finally chooses her own needs over her male lover’s.
Themes
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon
At long last, Tituba returns to her old cabin, which is more or less as she has left it. Though the plantation has changed many times, many of the slaves still know Tituba, and they bring her an ewe to sacrifice upon her return. Tituba then gets to work, planting a garden for all the tropical plants she needs to heal people across the island. While there is incredible violence against enslaved people at this time, Tituba manages to hide amongst the foliage. One day, she discovers an orchid in her backyard, and she names it after Hester. 
Amidst violence and massive amounts of prejudice, Tituba again finds solace and meaning in the natural world. Crucially, though, Tituba does not isolate herself—instead, as always, she uses her knowledge of plants and spirits to help the people in her community to endure.
Themes
Surviving vs. Enduring Theme Icon
Nature as Knowledge Theme Icon
Quotes