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 Themes

Themes and Colors
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
Archival History vs. Memory Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Surviving vs. Enduring

For Tituba, the novel’s protagonist, every day is a struggle to survive: as a Black woman living in the 17th century, she faces the quotidian brutality of slavery, the constant threat of fatal white violence, and the ravages of disease and childbirth. John Indian, Tituba’s husband, instructs Tituba to protect herself at any cost, whether that means playing into white people’s stereotypes of her, changing her core beliefs, or betraying the other people in…

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Slavery and Daily Life

Throughout much of her life, Tituba lives in slavery. Though the historical record says very little about Tituba—the real-life woman who played a central role in the 17th-century Salem witch trials—the novel works to fill in the blanks, imagining Tituba’s interiority and her lived experience of enslavement. As it follows Tituba from her childhood in Barbados to her adulthood in New England, the novel shows just how much every aspect of daily life is impacted…

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Nature as Knowledge

I, Tituba: Black Witch of Salem is filled with descriptions of the natural world: Condé details “the shadow play of the flamboyant, calabash, and silk-cotton trees” of Tituba’s native Barbados and contrasts this lushness with the sparse forests and “white mottled sky” of Salem, Massachusetts. From a young age, Tituba has learned from skilled healer Mama Yaya how to use tropical plants, alongside incantations and animal sacrifices, to heal others or to change…

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Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism

Throughout the novel, Tituba is continually betrayed by men; as her mother Abena warns her, “men do not love. They possess.” From Tituba’s childhood, when a plantation owner tries to assault her mother, to her marriage, when her husband John Indian refuses to defend her against accusations of witchcraft, Tituba is consistently reminded that men are more likely to do harm than good. And yet while the men in her life hurt the people around…

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Archival History vs. Memory

I, Tituba: Black Witch of Salem is based on historical records surrounding the Salem witch trials of 1692; indeed, at one point during the novel, Condé reprints word-for-word the record of Tituba’s testimony, pulled straight from the Essex County Archives. But though Condé herself draws from these archives, Tituba spends much of her own narrative fretting that she will not be accurately remembered in historical documents. And indeed, while many of the white people…

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