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 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After her deposition, Tituba is jailed in a villager’s barn, so she does not see the wave of accusations that sweep Salem. A few weeks later, Elizabeth Parris comes to apologize. As soon as she has said sorry, however, Elizabeth shares her view of the panic: “I can only compare it to a sickness that first of all is thought to be benign because it effects the lesser parts of the body.” Tituba is shocked by this phrasing.
Though Elizabeth recognizes her accusations of Tituba were false, she only continues to reveal the depths of her prejudice. In particular, by saying that false accusations were okay when they only affected Tituba, Elizabeth suggests that she finds Black life completely expendable. Again, Elizabeth ignores the life-saving role Tituba played in her own family.
Themes
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon
From Elizabeth, Tituba learns that even Rebecca Nurse—one of the most respected villagers in the entire parish—has been accused by Abigail and young Anne Putnam. If Goodwife Nurse can be taken down, Tituba fears even more greatly for her husband. Yet John Indian seems to be getting along just fine, causing Tituba to recall Hester’s complaint that “life is too kind to men, whatever their color.”
Historians agree that Rebecca Nurse was accused and executed because she refused to name other names; her integrity, in other words, is the very thing that destroyed her. But Tituba also sees misogyny at work here, reflecting that her particular identity as a Black woman made her much more vulnerable than her husband, a Black man.
Themes
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon
Archival History vs. Memory Theme Icon
One day, John visits Tituba in her makeshift jail. Tituba is horrified to see that he has changed, becoming cunning and manipulative. He reveals that he has joined with Abigail in accusing townspeople of witchcraft. Tituba is “appalled,” but she also has to face the fact that she, too, lied to save herself. She begins to fall out of love with John Indian, largely because she cannot stop imagining him as one of her accusers.
Now, Tituba sees the results of John’s single-minded emphasis on survival: he is again playing into white people’s expectations, but this time, he is doing so in a way that causes great harm to others. Though Tituba continues to think of him (often with desire), this exchange permanently damages their marriage.
Themes
Surviving vs. Enduring Theme Icon
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon
John Indian stops visiting, and Tituba is taken back to the jail in Ipswich. On the journey, Tituba fears that she will be “forgotten,” written out of records or mentioned only in passing; while other descendants of the accused will have their property restored to them, no such reparations will be made to Tituba’s descendants.
Tituba does not state it outright, but her claim here is clear: the archives themselves are unreliable, giving priority to white voices and grievances and erasing Black ones. Indeed, that can be seen in both the archival snippet Condé includes and in the various popular histories that have been written about Salem. The idea of the “violence of the archive” is also a prominent one in Black feminist thought.
Themes
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Archival History vs. Memory Theme Icon
Quotes
Get the entire I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem LitChart as a printable PDF.
I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem PDF
Back at the jail, Tituba requests to be placed with Hester, but she learns that Hester has hanged herself. In great pain, Tituba thinks of drowning in her mother’s womb and wishes for death (“Hester, I would have gone with you”). Wracked with grief, Tituba is labeled insane, and she is taken to the almshouse in Salem.
If John Indian has chosen to prioritize flesh-and-blood survival, Hester prefers to follow Yao’s path, taking her own life (and that of her child) rather than bending to the Puritans’ will. This marks a divergence from Hester’s trajectory in The Scarlet Letter (where she remains alive). 
Themes
Surviving vs. Enduring Theme Icon
At the almshouse, Tituba is studied by a male doctor, who offers her various potions made of blood and milk to calm her down. Gradually, Tituba is sedated, and she is moved back to the prison in Ipswich. As her speech and memory come back, Tituba is transferred to the prison in Salem town, which is larger and less terrible than the one in Ipswich. Still, Tituba cannot avoid the pervasive sense of gloom that seems to hang over all of Massachusetts.
Blood and milk were the two liquids Mama Yaya taught Tituba were essential. But when Tituba used these liquids to heal, it was seen as witchcraft—whereas when a white doctor does it, it is viewed as a legitimate form of expert knowledge.
Themes
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Nature as Knowledge Theme Icon
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon