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 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Tituba learns that the Jewish merchant is named Benjamin Cohen d’Azevedo; his wife and youngest children have recently passed away, but he still has nine kids he needs a woman’s help with. As Jews, the family’s life has been marked by persecution: they have fled from Portugal to Holland to Brazil to New England. Benjamin is not suspicious of Tituba, because he views the Gentiles who accused her as inherently evil. Instead, he introduces her to his network of Jews across the New World. 
Though Benjamin seems to be white, his own experience of persecution—and the recent loss he has suffered—allows him some measure of empathy with Tituba. His life also reveals rampant anti-Semitism as another aspect of Puritan, and more broadly majority European, prejudice.
Themes
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Over time, Benjamin begins to treat Tituba with great kindness, giving her clothes or little treats that had belonged to his deceased, “beloved” wife Abigail d’Azevedo. As a thank-you, Tituba agrees to put Benjamin in contact with Abigail d’Azevedo’s spirit. At night, she sacrifices a goat and says the familiar incantation; sure enough, Abigail appears, and the two share a lovely reunion in Hebrew.
In contrast to Puritan Christianity, which is portrayed in the novel as rigid and completely closed-off to other forms of spiritual knowledge, Benjamin’s reunions with his wife represent a kind of open-minded syncretism: Tituba’s natural expertise is blended with Hebrew (the traditional language of Judaism) to allow for a lovely, almost holy moment outside the bounds of traditional Jewish practice.
Themes
Nature as Knowledge Theme Icon
After several weeks of these late-night meetings, Benjamin asks if his oldest daughter Metahebel can join. Metahebel is Tituba’s favorite of the children, though Metahebel believes that those who are persecuted should not fight their circumstances, instead waiting until the afterlife for peace. Tituba disagrees, asking “isn’t it time the victims changed sides?”
Tituba’s exchange with Metahebel shows that her own thought is beginning to diverge from Mama Yaya’s teachings. Rather than trying to merely separate herself from “the white man’s world,” Tituba now wants some measure of revenge. But this is not John Indian’s worldview, either—Tituba wants to survive not by playing into white people’s hands but by fighting back against them.
Themes
Surviving vs. Enduring Theme Icon
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Benjamin and Tituba eventually end up sleeping together; “why,” Tituba wonders, “must any relationship with the slightest hint of affection between a man and a woman necessarily end up in bed?” The sight of Benjamin’s body cannot compare to the beauty of John Indian’s, but Tituba nevertheless finds great pleasure and comfort with him.
Again, Tituba’s view of male-female relationships is complicated and confused by sexual desire. Though her relationship with Benjamin is perhaps more mature and more deeply founded than the bond she shared with John, Tituba also misses the passion that prevailed in her first marriage.
Themes
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
Benjamin educates Tituba about the history of the Jews, and he introduces her to the contemporary struggles and triumphs of Jewish people in the New World. But while Tituba begins to see everything through Benjamin’s eyes, he extends no such empathy—when Tituba mentions wanting her freedom to go back to Barbados, Benjamin refuses, arguing that “if you leave, I’ll lose her a second time.”
In prior chapters, white women like Elizabeth revealed the limits of their solidarity with Tituba. Now, Benjamin does the same thing—though they are both members of oppressed groups, Benjamin is still white, still an enslaver, and still cruel, taking advantage of the power he has over Tituba.  This shifting, unreliable alliance again calls attention to the various ways identities intersect with each other.
Themes
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon
One day, Tituba runs into Mary Black, one of the few other enslaved women from Salem (who had also been accused of witchcraft). Mary tells Tituba that the truth has come out: the girls were being manipulated by their parents to settle land disputes, and the entire panic has been revealed as a hoax. All of the accused not yet executed have been pardoned, but Tituba reflects that it is too late to undo all the damage.
This is another moment in which Tituba’s lived experience is at odds with the more popular, archive-based version of history. Many historians have spent decades trying to trace the land disputes behind the accusations—but to Tituba, that speculative background is much less important than the concrete loss and trauma she and others experienced.
Themes
Nature as Knowledge Theme Icon
Archival History vs. Memory Theme Icon
When Tituba asks about John Indian, Mary tells her that he has moved to a nearby town to live with a wealthy white woman. Tituba gets back just in time to hear Benjamin and his children doing their evening prayers, but she runs to her room in a panic.
John’s romance with a white woman—plus the news that he has gotten through the trials unscathed—is perhaps the ultimate proof that, as Hester says, “life is too kind to men, whatever their color.”
Themes
Surviving vs. Enduring Theme Icon
Slavery and Daily Life  Theme Icon
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Theme Icon