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 them, they escape punishment, leaving the women around them to face the consequences; “life is too kind to men,” Tituba often reflects, “whatever their color.” But even when Tituba, spurred to action by her friendship with an outspoken woman named Hester, begins to think of herself as a feminist, she cannot fully separate herself from men. (Note that Condé’s use of the word feminist is anachronistic, as the feminist movement had not yet formed in the 17th century). Instead, Tituba finds herself caught between her ideological frustration with patriarchal society and her intense carnal desire for various men (most prominently her husband John Indian). And if Tituba’s sexual longing provides one obstacle to her burgeoning feminism, her complex relationships with white women are an even bigger stumbling block. Though Tituba initially believes she has found allies in people like Elizabeth Parris, who seems to resent her brutal husband Samuel just as much as Tituba does, Elizabeth is quick to turn on Tituba at the first sign of danger. By the end of the narrative, Tituba is convinced of the need for a unified feminist effort: because patriarchy is so prevalent and female desire is so complex, only by standing together (as she does with Hester) can women find solace and strength. But at the same time, the novel also stresses the importance—and the difficulty—of a truly intersectional feminism, where Black women are given the same rights and freedoms as their white counterparts.
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism ThemeTracker
Desire, Patriarchy and the Difficulty of Feminism Quotes in I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem
Lament for my lost child
The moonstone dropped into the water,
Into the waters of the river,
And my fingers couldn’t reach it,
Woe is me!
The moonstone has fallen.
Sitting on a rock on the riverbank,
I wept and I lamented.
Oh, softly shining stone,
Glimmering at the bottom of the water.
The hunter passed that way
With his bow and arrows.
“Why are you crying, my lovely one?”
“I’m crying because my moonstone
Lies at the bottom of the water.”
“If it is but that, my lovely,
I will help you.”
But the hunter died and was drowned.
How could their yearning and nostalgia possibly be compared to mine? What they yearned for was the sweetness of a gentler life, the life of white women who were served and waited on by attentive slaves. Even if the reverend Mr. Parris had ended up losing all his wealth and hopes, the life they had spent there was composed of luxury and voluptuousness. And what did I yearn for? The subtle joys of being a slave. The cakes made out of crumbs from the stale bread of life. The fleeting moments of forbidden games.
We did not belong to the same universe, Goodwife Parris, Betsey, and I, and all the affection in the world could not change that.
“I cannot do what your heart dares not disclose. The woman who revealed her science taught me to heal and console rather than to do evil. Once, when, like yourself, I dreamed of doing my worst, she warned: ‘Don't become like them, knowing only how to do evil.’”
[Sarah] shrugged her frail shoulders under her wretched shawl. “Knowledge must adapt itself to society. You are no longer in Barbados among our unfortunate brothers and sisters. You are among monsters who are set on destroying us.”
“What does Satan look like? Don't forget he has more than one disguise up his sleeve. That's why after all this time nobody's caught him yet. Sometimes he's a black man...”
There I interrupted her in a worried voice. “If I say that, won't they think of John Indian?”
She shrugged her shoulders irritably. Hester got irritated easily. “Don't talk to me about your wretched husband! He's no better than mine. Shouldn't he be here to share your sorrow? Life is too kind to men, whatever their color.”
That night Hester lay down beside me, as she did sometimes. I laid my head on the quiet water-lily of her cheek and held her tight. Surprisingly, a feeling of pleasure slowly flooded over me. Can you feel pleasure from hugging a body similar to your own? For me, pleasure had always been in the shape of another body whose hollows fitted my curves and whose swellings nestled in the tender flatlands of my flesh. Was Hester showing me another kind of bodily pleasure?
I was not really worried about the outcome of the plot. In fact, I tried not to think about it. I let my mind blur and color dreams and I concentrated above all on my baby. She had started to move in my womb; a sort of slow, gentle creeping as if she wanted to explore her confined quarters. […] A little longer and we would be looking at each other and her fresh gaze would make me ashamed of my wrinkles and my stumps of teeth. My daughter would settle old scores for me! She would know how to win the love of a man with a heart as warm as cornbread. […] They would have children they would teach to see beauty in themselves. Children who would grow straight and free toward the sky.