The Witch of Blackbird Pond follows one character, Katherine Tyler (known throughout the novel as “Kit”), through one year in Connecticut Colony. It opens when she is sailing into the mouth of the Connecticut River aboard the Dolphin in mid-April 1687, and it ends with her making plans to leave the colony in early May of the following year. The novel follows a chronological order and focuses on three general topics: Kit’s entry into the life of Connecticut Colony and her attempts to fit in, the relationships she and others form during her year there, and, most dramatically, a witchcraft scare involving Kit and the old woman who becomes her friend, Hannah Tupper. This all plays out against a backdrop of political tumult, as the colonists are concerned with the English crown’s attempts to change their charter.
All four threads are interwoven, but the bulk of the early chapters are devoted to Kit’s arrival in Connecticut Colony. She sails there from Barbados in the West Indies after the death of the beloved grandfather who had raised her. An orphan from an early age, Kit’s choice to come to Connecticut is a mix of bold initiative and relative despair. She knows her Aunt Rachel (Kit’s mother’s sister) lives there, and Kit thinks she will live with Rachel and her husband, Matthew Wood. However, she also does this because she is broke and alone and really has nowhere else to go.
That Kit’s isolation is matched by her ignorance of Connecticut is underscored by the novel’s opening chapters. Kit is unimpressed by her first sight of the colony, and then, when a child drops a toy in the river, she jumps in the water to get it. She is surprised by the cold—and even more surprised to learn that swimming, common and accepted in the West Indies, is associated with witchcraft in her new home.
When Kit finally gets to Wethersfield, where Rachel and Matthew Wood live, sailors from the Dolphin carry her many trunks to the home and leave Kit to face her new family alone. The Woods are shocked to meet her, as Kit has not told them she is coming, but they eventually accept her into their home with various degrees of warmth.
The Wood family consists of Matthew, Rachel, and two daughters: Judith, pretty but somewhat judgmental; and Mercy, crippled but kind. The family quickly introduces Kit to a whirlwind of new experiences, all of which she bumbles. Kit is clumsy at those that involve skill...
(The entire section is 1450 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of The Witch of Blackbird Pond Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
In The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Speare creates strong and memorable fictional characters who interact with actual historical personages. The result is a vivid portrait of life in Puritan New England. Kit Tyler, a rebellious orphan who has grown up in Barbados, moves to Connecticut and is soon exposed to the restrictive rules of Puritan society. In her new home, she frequently finds herself in conflict with her Uncle Matthew. These domestic confrontations point up some of her conflicts with Puritan society at large, for Kit is temperamentally unsuited to following other people's rules. To survive she must curb her impulsiveness, and when she cannot she suffers "helpless rage." Kit's difficulties in adjusting to her new surroundings culminate in her being tried on the charge of witchcraft.
(The entire section is 127 words.)
Summary and Analysis
Summary and Analysis: Chapter 1
Kit Tyler (Katherine): a sixteen-year-old orphan going to Wethersfield, Connecticut, to live with her mother’s sister.
Nat Eaton (Nathaniel): the son of the Dolphin’s captain.
Mrs. Eaton: Captain Eaton’s kind wife.
Captain Eaton: captain of the Dolphin.
John Holbrook: a theology student coming to Wethersfield to study with Reverend Bulkeley.
Goodwife Cruff: a new passenger bound for Wethersfield.
Goodman Cruff: the quiet and henpecked husband of Goodwife Cruff.
Prudence Cruff: a little girl who drops her doll in the water.
In April 1687, Kit Tyler arrives at Connecticut Colony, sailing into Saybrook Harbor aboard the Dolphin. As the ship arrives, Kit views her new home and is joined on deck by Nat Eaton, the son of the ship’s captain. Kit finds her first sight of the American colonies underwhelming, even depressing; it is all too dim and underdeveloped after her warm and colorful home in the West Indies. Kit and Nat talk until it is time for the first longboat to go to shore, when Kit begs a place aboard it so that she can have a chance to set foot on America for the first time and so that she can accompany Mrs. Eaton, who has been kind to her during the voyage. Kit has been on ship so long that she wobbles a bit once on land, but she enjoys watching the sailors load supplies.
Four new passengers accompany the supplies. One of them, a little girl, accidentally drops the wooden doll her grandfather had made for her into the water. When she is so upset about losing it, Kit dives in to get it. She is surprised by how cold the water is and more surprised still that Nat dives in to “save” her because it is so uncommon for women—or anyone—to know how to swim in the colonies.
Once back on board, Kit meets John Holbrook, one of the new passengers. He is also going to Wethersfield. John is going there to study theology with Reverend Bulkeley, with plans of becoming a minister himself. They start a friendly conversation but also clash a bit over politics before Nat interrupts them to summon Kit to dine with the Cruff family now that Mrs. Eaton has left the ship. Kit agrees, even though she doesn’t want to because Goodwife Cruff has such a sour disposition. Nat shares the news that Goodwife Cruff won’t enjoy it either, because...
(The entire section is 797 words.)
Summary and Analysis: Chapter 2
A redheaded sailor: a good-natured sailor aboard the Dolphin.
It takes nine days for the Dolphin to sail the forty-three miles from Saybrook to Wethersfield. Kit is very frustrated by what seems to be an extremely slow speed, but the sailors are at ease with the pace. The crawling pace is made worse by the fact that Goodwife Cruff is so unfriendly and that she browbeats her family into being unfriendly as well. Captain Eaton is also distant, so it seems like John Holbrook is the only friendly person on board. As they talk, Kit learns of John’s earlier desires to go to Harvard and of how his family’s relative poverty led him to shift to studying under Reverend Bulkeley. This in turn leads to Kit sharing some of her life’s story with John. He’s scandalized to learn how easy her childhood was but appreciates how much Kit loved her grandfather and how much it hurt when he died. He also is kind enough to warn Kit that her aunt in Wethersfield has been away from England and Kit’s mother for a long time, trying in his way to prepare Kit for a welcome other than the one she hopes for.
Kit thinks about this warning as she watches the crew “walking up the river”: ten men go on land and inch the ship forward by pulling on a rope. Nat, one of the men, goes swimming afterward and teases Kit to join him. When she says she wishes she could, to get rid of the smell of the filthy boat, he counters by arguing that the Dolphin is clean—and that it could smell a lot worse if it carried slaves, like the one she owned in Barbados. This is one of several culture clashes in the chapter; the next comes when Kit grabs one of John Holbrook’s books to see what he is reading and is surprised to find it very harsh and tiring theology. John in turn is surprised to learn she can read, and he is shocked to find out that Kit’s grandfather let her read plays, which he considers sinful.
When they finally arrive at Wethersfield, Kit is again depressed by the sight of her small and dirty new home. When she tries to say a friendly good-bye to Prudence, Goodwife Cruff rebukes her. John Holbrook says good-bye, but distantly; he’s focused on his own future studies. When Captain Eaton learns that no one is meeting Kit, and that no one even knew she was coming, he gets mad, telling Kit he would not have transported her if he had known. Even though Kit...
(The entire section is 739 words.)
Summary and Analysis: Chapter 3
A man in a leather coat: he gives Nat and Kit directions to Matthew Wood’s house.
Rachel Wood: Kit’s aunt, her mother’s sister.
Judith Wood: Kit’s cousin, a proud and pretty girl.
Mercy Wood: Kit’s cousin, a kind but crippled girl.
Matthew Wood: Kit’s uncle, an upstanding colonial citizen and good, austere Puritan.
Kit follows Captain Eaton through the muddy streets of Wethersfield. Nat walks beside her, carrying two trunks on his shoulders, and two more sailors follow carrying more of her luggage. They find their way to Matthew Wood’s house on High Street. When they knock, a woman answers. Though she is far more worn and tired looking than Kit expected, it is her Aunt Rachel, who at first mistakes Kit for Margaret, so closely does Kit resemble her mother. Once the mistaken identity is cleared up, she welcomes Kit, and Captain Eaton takes his leave. So does Nat, though he pauses long enough to warn Kit teasingly about the possibility that she might be taken for a witch.
Once Kit and Rachel are alone, Rachel calls her daughters and her husband, Matthew, so Kit can meet them. Matthew Wood is tall and lean, and he seems harsh to Kit. Judith is as beautiful as Kit expected her aunt to be, while Mercy, though she has striking gray eyes, is a cripple who makes her way through the world on crutches. It turns out that the Woods are about to eat a late breakfast, and Kit joins them. Kit is surprised by the coarse and limited breakfast (cornbread and water). While Kit is wondering about this and about how austere Matthew Wood seems, he gets up to go back to work in the fields. On his way out, he notices Kit’s seven trunks and comments that it seems like a lot of luggage (and a long way to come) just for a visit. That’s when Kit finally tells the family that she has come to live with them.
The family is stunned. Matthew asks why she did not write first. Kit says that she could not, because they might have said no, and she had nowhere else to go. Matthew says that they would not have said no, but that she should have written first to give them time to plan. Rachel joins in the conversation, and as they talk, Kit explains how her grandfather might have been rich once, but his overseer had stolen a lot of money and disappeared. This started a decline, and, once her grandfather died, Kit had to...
(The entire section is 1002 words.)
Summary and Analysis: Chapter 4
Matthew Wood goes off to work in the fields, and Rachel goes to visit Widow Brown, a local woman who is too poor and weak to care for herself. This leaves Kit alone with her cousins. Judith complains about the time her mother spends caring for the poor, while Mercy counters with a scriptural and emotional defense of the act before cutting off the argument to try to help make Kit feel at home. When Judith asks what is in each of the trunks, she is stunned to learn that they are all full of dresses of the sort that Kit is wearing, which she sees as very fancy. Kit in turn is surprised that her cousins do not have such clothes. Kit urges them to try on some of the dresses, and after an initial hesitation, they do, with Judith very much taking the lead. She puts on a blue dress and wonders out loud at how William would like her in it, then puts a pale blue shawl on Mercy. Rachel comes back in while they are wearing these fine clothes and reacts with a mix of pleasure and fear: she clearly likes the clothes, including the bonnet Kit urges her to try on but is concerned about how wearing such flashy clothing would appear. Her fears prove well grounded when Matthew bursts in, finds them all wearing new clothes, and makes them give the clothes back, calling the bonnet his wife is wearing “ridiculous.” At Rachel’s plea, he does let Mercy keep the shawl.
After this incident, Kit is put to work helping Mercy card wool, a task she finds both difficult and tedious. Though Kit enjoys talking to Mercy while they work and shares with her a story of a loveless marriage Kit escaped, all the work in the house seems equally tedious, from making soap to making corn pudding. Kit nearly ruins the pudding, resulting in a painful silence over dinner. It only gets worse as the night goes on. Kit’s Uncle Matthew reads from the Bible, but boringly, and then Kit overhears Rachel and the girls talking about her, with Judith leading the complaints against her. The evening comes to an appropriately dark end when Kit hears wolves howling in the distance.
In this chapter, the difference between the girls, and between the women of the Wood family and Matthew Wood, is made strikingly apparent. It is so intense as to be a culture clash in itself and is made even more evident by Kit’s acceptance of and joy in beautiful things. Rachel knew such luxuries in her youth, and Judith’s desire...
(The entire section is 684 words.)
Summary and Analysis: Chapter 5
Reverend Gershom Bulkeley: the Puritan minister at Wethersfield.
Mistress Ashby: one of the Woods’ neighbors.
William Ashby: Mistress Ashby’s son, soon to become a suitor for Kit.
On Sunday, Kit accompanies the Woods to the Meeting House for religious services. Her uncle is upset, first by Kit’s infrequent church attendance in the past and second by the fact that she has no other clothing to wear: the flashy clothes she owns seem disrespectful for a church service. Kit makes the situation worse by asking how far away the town is—when they’re standing in the middle of it.
Once at the Meeting House, the Puritan services seem as austere as the building itself. Kit finds the service boring and the seats painful, and her only relief is watching young boys trap a fly … until a watching man raps them on the head with a pole. After the sermon, Kit is introduced to Reverend Bulkeley. He and two deacons greet Kit warmly, and Kit also gets a chance to wave to Prudence, but Goodwife Cruff and a group of women stand to the side, gossiping about Kit and glaring at her. Kit is diverted from this when John Holbrook comes to greet her. Judith joins them to praise Reverend Bulkeley. As he leaves, Rachel introduces Kit to Mistress Ashby and her son William, who is clearly struck by Kit’s beauty. Kit’s still thinking about this encounter when Judith draws her aside to ask if Kit has a romantic interest in John Holbrook. All of this social interaction and speculation comes to an end when Kit notices the little “Sabbath houses,” which are there for families who live too far from the Meeting House to go home between services. This is how Kit learns there are two services each Sabbath, not just one. This sparks a momentary rebellion, but Kit soon realizes she’ll have to attend the second service.
This chapter introduces Kit to the larger Puritan community and drives home how limited and unpleasant her place in it is. Kit’s comments about the town’s size can be taken that she’s used to seeing a larger world (metaphorically)—but they also underscore how badly she reads this one. The men policing children’s attention at the worship service embody the formal discipline the Puritan community uses to keep its members focused on the divine, just as the existence and use of the Sabbath...
(The entire section is 548 words.)
Summary and Analysis: Chapter 6
The Woods host Reverend Bulkeley for dinner, a feast that the women of the house spend four days preparing. The minister clearly enjoys the meal. While he approves of all the women have done, he smiles each time he sees Judith and gives most of his attention to Kit. He is pleased to learn that Kit’s grandfather was knighted by King Charles and that he was (and Kit is) a loyal subject of King James. Kit does not understand what Bulkeley is implying, but her uncle steps in to insist that Kit’s allegiance to the king is not being disrupted by living with the Woods. The conversation turns into a political argument, with Bulkeley suggesting that if Matthew Wood stays so stubborn, it will lead to revolution and Wood in turn saying that he is willing to fight if that is what it takes to protect the rights that were established in the charter. The argument is so violent that Rachel starts to cry, but Mercy keeps it from getting worse by asking Reverend Bulkeley to read to them. The minister declines the invitation but suggests that his student John Holbrook might read instead. While this still touches on the political argument they had been having (because the minister suggests that John read verses about being loyal to a king), Matthew restrains himself and the moment passes. John’s reading is much more pleasant than Matthew’s had been, and for the first time Kit really appreciates the Old Testament verses.
The evening ends pleasantly enough, with Rachel inviting John to visit the house whenever he likes. After their visitors are gone, though, Matthew Wood explodes with anger, swearing he will never let the minister in his house again. The family’s plans for the future are complicated further when Rachel mentions that William Ashby had asked permission to court Kit. The Wood sisters are upset at first, because they thought William had been interested in Judith, and Kit is upset because she is not interested in marrying William. She offers to talk to Matthew, but Judith says it is okay and not to do so, because she has changed her mind. Judith is not going to marry William; she wants to marry John.
The church’s centrality in colonial lives is underscored by the dinner with Reverend Bulkeley in this chapter. The Woods lead a hard life, with much labor, but they are willing, even honored, to dedicate most of a week’s work to making a special dinner for the...
(The entire section is 580 words.)
Summary and Analysis: Chapter 7
When William Ashby comes to call on Kit, she does not know what she should say to him, and William does not make it any better by seeming to be content to sit silently in her presence. When Kit finally does start a conversation, it goes nowhere, and Kit is relieved when her aunt invites them to join the family and John Holbrook, who has just arrived for a visit. They have popcorn, and over the snack, William talks about the house he is planning to build. This slides into a discussion of the right to own property, and William surprises Kit by standing up to Matthew on the subject of politics. This again leads to a brief argument over what the colony should do in response to the current political situation, with William taking a pragmatic position (don’t anger the King), John arguing Dr. Bulkeley’s position (that Connecticut doesn’t interpret the charter correctly), and Matthew Wood arguing the strong position for freedom (and that the young men don’t understand).
This puts an end to the evening. After the young men leave, Kit is relieved that she will never have to deal with William again, but Judith and Mercy quickly correct her misunderstanding. William only mentioned the house because he is planning to build it for his new wife: Kit. The Wood sisters prove to be right, and William returns every Saturday. As much as Kit does not understand what he sees in her, or in their evenings together, she still looks forward to them as a break in her routine in Wethersfield, which seems to be nothing but work—work that she’s not very good at.
This chapter introduces one new plot twist that manages to develop four already established thematic concerns. As promised, William Ashby comes to court Kit, with the hopes of marrying her. The lack of connection between the two young people is so extreme that it verges on comedy, and it is made funnier—and sadder—by the fact that William seems content with their interaction, or lack thereof. He does not expect to talk to or connect with the woman he plans to marry. Instead, he is content to sit silently.
The dinner conversation develops the themes of gender division (the women and men experience a very different world), Kit’s role in this new world (with William she again feels how out of place she is), and the clash between loyalty and rights. Each of the men stakes out a different position: the...
(The entire section is 452 words.)
Summary and Analysis: Chapter 8
One June morning, Matthew sends Kit and Judith to weed an onion field in the south meadow. They are now dressed exactly alike, as Rachel and Mercy made Kit a calico dress that matches theirs. While the weather still seems chilly compared to what she knew in Barbados, Kit enjoys being outside as much as Judith does. She is also struck by the intense green sprawl of the Great Meadows, something she has never seen, and which is as impressive in its way as the ocean waters she had known and loved. The meadow seems to speak to her, and Kit wishes she could be there just by herself and soak in the peace.
When Judith asks what she is looking at, rather than share this inner feeling, Kit asks about a little house at the edge of a pond. Judith tells her Widow Tupper is the only one who would live in such a place. No one knows what she does when the river floods, and some people say she is a witch. The moment passes, and the girls go on to the onion fields. While they weed—another task Kit is not good at—Kit wonders if she would have to work this way if she married William and immediately realizes that no, she would not. Marrying William would be an escape.
She gets another way to escape when they arrive home: Dr. Bulkeley has suggested that Kit help Mercy teach the “dame school” for the younger children during the summer, which will be held in the Wood family’s kitchen. Kit is surprised to learn that Bulkeley thinks she is capable, and surprised again to learn John Holbrook is the one who told the minister she could read. Kit is pleased, though, both at the idea of escaping some of the harsh physical tasks and when she learns that she will be paid. This will let her contribute to the household, and she lets slip the fact that she overheard the family talking about her when she first arrived. Rachel and her daughters are embarrassed to hear this and explain that they had wished she was a boy because Kit’s uncle needs a boy to help in the fields and because the family’s first child had been a boy. He died, though, after he fell sick with the same illness that crippled Mercy.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond follows a great arc, covering a year in the life of Kit Tyler and the Connecticut Colony. However, before the novel doubles back on itself seasonally (as it does in the last chapters) and geographically (Kit arrives in the first chapter and gets...
(The entire section is 765 words.)
Summary and Analysis: Chapter 9
Timothy Cook: a little boy in Mercy and Kit’s class.
Charity Hughes: a little girl in Mercy and Kit’s class.
Peter: the little boy in Mercy and Kit’s class who is beaten during the play of the Good Samaritan.
Mr. Eleazer Kimberley: the schoolmaster who interrupts the play.
Reverend John Woodbridge: the minister who accompanies Mr. Kimberley when he interrupts the play.
Kit is helping Mercy teach eleven of the younger children in the community how to read. Mercy is very patient, but Kit, while she likes the children and connects with them as she does not with their parents, gets bored by the droning repetition and moralistic rhymes, and starts making up little rhymes about the children. The six children assigned to Kit are fascinated. This is part of a general impulse by Kit to bring their education to life, as she does by rewarding their memorization with stories. That day, Kit is going to tell them the story of the Good Samaritan, but since the children all already know the story, Kit has an idea. She decides to have them act the story out. Mercy is not sure that is a good idea, but the children enter into the pretending with vigor. At first they are excited, but then things get out of hand: Kit had chosen the three worst behaved boys in the school to play the robbers who assault the traveler, and they start pounding on the boy for real.
Before Kit and Mercy can break up the fight, Mr. Eleazer Kimberley and Reverend John Woodbridge enter the kitchen and start caning the unruly boys. The two men are horrified at what they have found and are scandalized to learn that there has been “play-acting” in school, which they consider sinful. Kit takes responsibility for the activity and is immediately dismissed. Before they leave, the two men say they will have to consider whether Mercy is responsible enough to keep teaching the children as well.
Mercy is left in tears, and Kit is so upset that she runs from the house. She is not sure where she is going but somehow finds her way to the Great Meadows, where she collapses in the tall grass. She cries for a long time, until at last she feels at peace. About that time, Kit realizes she is not alone. She is being watched by a very old woman with white hair. It is Hannah Tupper, the supposed witch of Blackbird Pond. However, despite some oddities in...
(The entire section is 733 words.)
Summary and Analysis: Chapter 10
This chapter opens in the middle of a surprising conversation between Kit and Mercy: Kit went to see Mr. Kimberley and discussed the situation at the school and got her position back. When Mercy asks how Kit had the courage, she jokes about being bewitched, and this leads into a discussion of her meeting with Hannah Tupper. Kit’s Aunt Rachel advises Kit not to tell people about her meeting with Hannah, not because she is a witch but because she is a Quaker, and Quakers have caused trouble in all of the colonies. Some Quakers have been driven out of colonies, while others have even been hanged.
Kit is upset and decides that she cannot talk about Hannah with William, because he’d be shocked. She thinks she could tell John Holbrook but never gets time alone with him. He now visits regularly, and it is clear that Judith is in love with him. When he visits, John is clearly torn in his political loyalties. Matthew Wood often questions and mocks him, but John works hard to stay loyal to his teacher’s positions.
Finally, one afternoon when Judith and Kit are working in the onion field, Kit tells Judith she is going to visit Hannah. Judith is horrified, even when Kit tells her about her past meeting with Hannah, and declines Kit’s invitation to come along. When Kit arrives, Hannah is spinning flax. They talk about Kit’s situation—and about Hannah’s. Kit is surprised to learn that Hannah must pay a fine in order to not attend Meetings (worship services). This leads Kit to ask about being a Quaker, but before Hannah can answer, Nat Eaton appears in the doorway. It turns out that Nat and Hannah have been friends for a long time and that he brings Hannah gifts from far away. Like Kit, Nat first found his way to Hannah’s house by running away in tears and being comforted. Nat shares his story of how his talk with Hannah gave him the courage to go back to the ship, and Kit tells how she is now a teacher.
Rachel’s advice to Kit to avoid Hannah because Quakers have caused so much trouble does a good job of adding complexity to the portrait of the colonial political and religious landscape. The Puritans did come to the New World to worship freely, but they didn’t mix particularly well with others, and this warning shows how little tolerance there was even in a colony concerned with its rights and freedom.
When Nat visits Hannah while...
(The entire section is 467 words.)
Summary and Analysis: Chapter 11
One midsummer day, while Kit and Mercy are teaching, Kit gets the sensation that someone is lurking outside the house. Kit finds flowers on the doorstep and spies Prudence Cruff hiding nearby. Prudence likes Kit and wishes she could come to school and learn to read and write, but she says she cannot because her mother thinks she is too stupid. Kit strikes a deal with Prudence to meet secretly in the meadows to teach her how to read. Kit brings a hornbook, which had been a gift from her grandfather, to give to Prudence, but when the younger girl says she can’t accept it, Kit decides Prudence needs to meet Hannah. Though Prudence is scared because she has heard that Hannah is a witch, the girl quickly feels at home with Hannah.
That evening, while William and John are visiting, Kit finds herself frustrated with William’s seemingly endless talk about the house he is building. Judith, however, listens attentively and is very savvy about possible architectural details that she could choose for her own house to come. She teases John about his lack of awareness of such things but, like Kit, settles in to enjoy John reading aloud, which has become a regular ritual. Tonight, though, rather than the Bible, John reads poetry by Anne Bradstreet. It is love poetry, and as he reads it, Kit realizes that Mercy is in love with John Holbrook.
Prudence lurks around the school and gives Kit flowers because Kit is the only person who had been kind to her in the community, much as Kit goes to Hannah for similar reasons. It is only natural, then, that Kit completes the chain of kindness by introducing Prudence to Hannah. Together they form a sort of synthesized family whose love operates outside the discipline of the Puritan community.
The theme of love, and the practice of pairing themes in chapters, continues with the evening’s poetry reading. Using poetry as a tool to communicate love shows again the power of the arts that the Puritans so distrust and again comments on the limits of their worldview. However, in doing so it gives Kit yet another secret to protect: she is the only person besides Mercy who knows of her crippled cousin’s love for John Holbrook. This will prove emotionally important later, when John proposes, but on the thematic level, it is profound evidence of how...
(The entire section is 418 words.)
Summary and Analysis: Chapter 12
In the middle of August, “dame school” ends, and Kit and the girls shift to other tasks, such as making cider and harvesting onions and early apples and corn. This keeps Kit so busy that she does not have a chance to visit Hannah for a long time, until one afternoon when Rachel gives the girls time off after making candles. However, when Kit starts to head out the door to visit Hannah, Rachel asks her where she is going. When Kit does not answer, Rachel gives her a piece of apple tart to take with her, which tells Kit that her aunt knows she is going to go visit Hannah (and that she has known for some time), and even if Rachel does not approve, she is still moved by Kit’s good heart.
When Kit arrives at Hannah’s, she finds Nat there chopping wood. When he’s done, he starts thatching Hannah’s roof. Kit asks if she can help, and the two work easily together as companions. When they are done and resting, Kit is surprised to find herself as happy and at ease as she had been in Barbados. As they talk, Nat asks if she is homesick. Kit says that she sometimes is but feels more upset that she does not fit in. Nat then tells a story of a multicolored bird he once saw for sale that he had wanted to buy for his grandmother, but his father convinced him that the local birds would attack it. When he helped Kit move to Wethersfield, he thought of that bird.
As their conversation continues, Kit is delighted to learn that Nat has read Shakespeare, but talk of The Tempest leads to political discussions, and suddenly Nat is talking quite seriously about the nature of loyalty and freedom. When Kit decides it is time to go home, she is confused at Nat’s decision to walk with her. The Woods are upset that she is so late, but Kit tells them directly what she has been doing, and Nat supports her. William is there waiting for her and is no more happy to find her walking with another man than her Uncle Matthew is to learn that she has been helping a “heretic.”
This chapter continues Elizabeth George Speare’s practice of interweaving aspects of the past with emerging events. Specifically, Nat’s familiarity with Shakespeare is a pleasant surprise, and it and their shared labor create a new closeness between the couple....
(The entire section is 503 words.)
Summary and Analysis: Chapter 13
Later in autumn, the girls are talking, and Judith and Mercy are surprised to learn that Kit has never been to a husking bee. When Kit is dubious (it sounds like just more work to her), the girls describe it well enough to communicate some of their excitement to Kit, including mention of some mysterious “red ears” of corn. As the girls walk to gather the last of the corn in preparation for the husking bee, Judith shares with Kit her plan to marry John Holbrook—and her plan to “help” him ask her that evening. When Kit expresses doubt, Judith points Kit back toward William, telling her that he won’t wait forever.
Judith goes ahead as Kit visits Hannah briefly. On her way home, Kit sees John Holbrook, who is out gathering skunk cabbage to make an asthma cure. When he asks how Kit came to be walking alone, she tells him she has been visiting Hannah. John is startled and warns Kit that Hannah has been accused of practicing witchcraft, and says that even if it is just gossip, he would hate to see people use it against Kit. They get into a brief fight, and Kit accuses John of just parroting Reverend Bulkeley’s words. They talk on as they walk, with Kit trying to make John understand why she loves Hannah. The talk moves on to other forms of love, and John says that he plans to go to the Woods’ house to propose to Mercy that evening. Kit is so happy she hugs John.
However, when they enter the Woods’ home, Judith is still there getting ready for the bee. When John says that there is something he wants to talk to their father about, Judith jumps to conclusions. She carries her father along with her, and Matthew Wood gives John permission to marry Judith. John is caught so off guard that he cannot speak and allows himself to be carried along, essentially accidentally agreeing to marry Judith.
When William sees the happy couple at the husking bee, he approaches Kit and wants to talk to her uncle to ask permission to marry her. Kit begs him not to, pushing for more time because she is still so new there. William agrees to wait for her answer. However, at the bee itself, Judith gets a red ear of corn. She says she does not need it now and gives it to William. This allows him to “claim his forfeit,” which, by implication, is kissing Kit.
This chapter is essential for the novel’s plot and for understanding the Puritan character....
(The entire section is 604 words.)
Summary and Analysis: Chapter 14
When October arrives, Kit is completely unprepared for the beauty of the changing colors of the leaves. She also catches sight of something almost as striking: she sees her Uncle Matthew touching the soil in the garden and crumbling it through his fingers with reverence. Kit is baffled by why this image seems to hurt, but she is distracted by Judith’s call telling her a trading ship is coming into town. This makes her realize how much she would like to see the Dolphin—and Nat—again. The trading ship does turn out to be the Dolphin, and when the girls go watch it unload cargo, Nat comes over to see Kit and to give her a package for Hannah.
Kit suggests that Nat should deliver it himself, but Captain Eaton wants to sail right away. Nat is also pretty bitter about another cargo—fancy windows shipped from England to William Ashby for the house he is building for his new bride—and tells Kit she should have told him she was getting married. As the girls walk home, Judith quizzes Kit about how she knows Nat (and, by implication, why he should care she was getting married), but the conversation is cut short by finding Rachel at the doorway of their home. Matthew has been called away, and when he returns, he brings word that Sir Edmond Andros will be arriving in Hartford to take over as royal governor. This is disturbing, but there is also another bit of news that bothers Kit just as much: the Dolphin missed the wind and is becalmed nearby. Kit decides she will not deliver the package to Hannah until the ship is gone.
This chapter continues the novel’s exploration of the power and importance of what is not and cannot be spoken. In Matthew’s caress of the earth, Kit unexpectedly finds a love of place that matches her love of Barbados—but she cannot find a way to put her understanding of these private passions into words, and, in truth, the Puritan worldview had little place for such earthly passions. Nat’s bitterness over Kit’s failure to tell him she was getting married is a more mundane demonstration of this and addresses a problem that is still all too common. Nat knows he loves Kit, but Kit cannot admit to herself yet that she loves him, and in failing to let Nat know about William, she has accidentally created a somewhat dishonest situation.
(The entire section is 417 words.)
Summary and Analysis: Chapter 15
Captain Samuel Talcott: the Wethersfield citizen who leads—and calms—the crowd going to see Governor Andros, the new royal governor.
Governor Edmond Andros: the new royal governor.
This chapter opens on an angry argument: Matthew Wood and a number of men, including William Ashby, are in the company room discussing what they should do about the colony’s future. The women work in the next room, wondering what is going on. When Kit asks what William is doing there, Judith informs her that William has changed his mind and now agrees with Matthew about protecting the colony’s rights. Judith also remarks at how little Kit seems to listen to William.
Just then the voices from the company room become audible again. The men argue for another hour but do not reach a conclusion. When William comes out, Rachel asks what difference a change in the charter would really make. William brushes her position away, saying that women only think about their own homes but that the colony’s rights are real and desperately important. Later, when Kit and Judith talk before bed, Kit is concerned that the men do not understand the might of the king, which she glimpsed in Barbados.
The people of Wethersfield, though, get a chance to see for themselves when armed forces march into the town in uniform. Despite some noise before the soldiers get there and some mild gestures after they and their horses have passed, the colonists are respectful. The Wood household is depressed that night, at least until William Ashby shows up. He summarizes the meeting where the charter was discussed and shares shocking news. After the discussion had gone on for some time, a draft blew out the candles and the room went dark. When the candles were relit, the charter had disappeared. The governor stayed calm, did not ask about it, and instead read a statement annexing Connecticut to Massachusetts. When Matthew asks about the charter, all William will say is that it is safe. When the girls are back in bed, Kit jokingly suggests that the charter vanished because it is All Hallows Eve and a witch must have taken it. Judith dismisses this suggestion and says that she could tell William knows where the charter is. As she drifts off to sleep, Kit realizes she is proud of William.
As the political situation worsens, it puts different...
(The entire section is 504 words.)
Summary and Analysis: Chapter 16
It is time for Thanksgiving, but there will be no official Thanksgiving this year, because the government does not recognize the right of Connecticut to declare its own formal holidays. Judith is disappointed, but her father says that it may be for the best because there was trouble on All Hallows Eve. Some sailors put jack-o’-lanterns in the windows of William Ashby’s house. Kit finds this funny (and it seems like Judith does too), but Matthew Wood considers these pranks “the devil’s invention” and “blasphemy.” That Thursday is the day when public punishment happens, and Kit goes to the stocks, where she finds Nat and a red-haired sailor she knows from her time on the Dolphin, as well as a third figure she doesn’t recognize. A crowd is teasing those being punished, and some go so far as to throw mud or apples. Nat is calling insults in return, at least until Kit’s presence is noticed and the crowd’s fun breaks up. Nat tries to get her to leave and, when Kit tries to offer help, says that his punishment was worth it for the sight of William’s face.
Kit flees to Hannah’s for support (and to finally take her the package of cloth Nat sent), but Hannah is not that concerned about Nat being in the stocks. (She’d been there herself, after all.) She also is not concerned that Nat is “banished” from Wethersfield, trusting her young friend to know secret ways there via the water that the authorities do not know. This leads to a discussion of why Nat did this, which leads in turn to their first discussion of William’s courtship of Kit. Kit says she is not sure she loves William, but she wants to get out of her uncle’s house; Hannah councils Kit that without love, there will not be any escape. The two table their discussion as Prudence arrives for her lesson. The little girl is learning steadily and clearly loves Hannah, but Kit worries that something will happen to disrupt their lives. When Kit gets home that evening, she learns that something has indeed happened to disrupt her own life, but it is not what she expected. John Holbrook has enlisted in the militia as a doctor, leaving Judith very unhappy.
This chapter illustrates how the personal, the political, and the religious intersected in Puritan New England. Nat Eaton’s friends came along to put the jack-o’-lanterns in William Ashby’s house as a prank. For Nat it was a...
(The entire section is 633 words.)
Summary and Analysis: Chapter 17
Not long after John Holbrook leaves, Judith gets sick. Soon sixteen of the younger inhabitants of Wethersfield are sick, and no one has any real solution: the sick have to make it through on their own. Kit gets sick, but only briefly, and is never as deeply ill as Judith or, when she falls sick, Mercy, who becomes very ill. Rachel sits with her daughters, helpless but doing her best to take care of them. Matthew works all day in the fields and then gives his wife what breaks he can. By the time Mercy has been sick for four days, she is very close to death. Her father does not work the fields that day but instead searches the Bible, and his conscience, for some guidance. Matthew Wood eventually reaches some decision, but as he dresses to act on it, Reverend Bulkeley knocks on the door. Bulkeley starts to insist on being let in, since Matthew had banished him from the Wood home due to their political arguments, but it turns out that Matthew was just heading out the door to get him. Bulkeley tries a new remedy that includes a poultice of cooked onions. After applying many poultices and training Rachel in how to apply them, Bulkeley has to leave to tend to other sick people.
Just after he leaves, an angry mob comes to the door to enlist Matthew Wood’s help. They think that the illness that spread through the town has supernatural origins and, specifically, that the “Quaker woman” living near Blackbird Pond is the witch who is responsible. Many people are shouting suggestions and accusations, and one tells Mathew that Kit is also somehow responsible. Once they leave, Kit asks her uncle what they will do to Hannah. He says that they will take her to trial, but he cannot answer Kit’s questions about what the mob might do to Hannah before the trial. As a result, when the family goes to bed, Kit cannot sleep.
Kit gets up, dresses, and goes to the meadows to rescue Hannah. Hannah is disoriented in the dark and calls out for her long dead husband, Thomas. Kit just manages to get Hannah out of the house before the mob arrives. As Kit leads Hannah through the bog, the mob sets her beloved house on fire. Kit keeps Hannah safe through the long hours of the night, until, like a miracle, the Dolphin sails up. Kit swims out to the ship, where the sailors “rescue” and recognize her. Once Kit sees Nat, she gets him to take Hannah on board and take care of her. Nat asks Kit to come with them—anywhere...
(The entire section is 725 words.)
Summary and Analysis: Chapter 18
A deacon from Matthew’s church and a town constable: both of these men accompany the Cruffs to make their accusation of witchcraft against Kit.
The constable’s wife: the woman who feeds Kit the evening she is locked up and speaks kindly to her.
Once she is dry and fed, Kit feels much better, and with her cousins both returning to health and Hannah rescued, the world seems a brighter place. That morning she thanks her uncle for his words protecting her the night before, and Matthew, in turn, thanks Kit for all she has done for his daughters during the past week of intense illness. Despite this moment of closeness, Kit cannot bring herself to admit the times she has skipped out of work to go visit Hannah.
Later that day, four visitors from the village come to the Wood house to arrest Kit for witchcraft. Goodwife Cruff claims that the reason Hannah got away is because Kit helped her and that Hannah’s cat carried her away in the form of a mouse. Matthew is unimpressed, and Kit is about to laugh, until the constable reveals the silver hornbook Kit had been using to teach Prudence to write. When Matthew asks Kit if it was hers, Kit says yes and that she used to visit Hannah and bring her gifts. The fact that Matthew did not know this was happening gives the visitors an opening, and they insist on taking her.
Lacking a real jail, the constable locks Kit in his shed, where she sits alone and cries until the constable’s wife brings her dinner. After her Aunt Rachel comes to visit, Kit again sits alone, thinking about all that has happened and all that might have been, until she falls asleep, exhausted.
In this chapter, the community turns on Kit, and she gets in considerable trouble due to both her good qualities and her flaws. Her uncle’s ignorance of her visits to Hannah leave both characters vulnerable to the community’s judgment, for the (male) head of the family was supposed to be aware of all that went on in his home and to control it. Matthew’s inability to keep Kit from following her own conscience is much like the king’s inability to control the Puritans. At the same time, Kit takes full responsibility for teaching Prudence and attempts to protect her.
(The entire section is 404 words.)
Summary and Analysis: Chapter 19
The town selectmen: officials who help preside over the witchcraft trial.
The next morning, the constable’s wife brings Kit breakfast and helps Kit get cleaned up before she is taken to the inquiry. Once there, Kit must face the town selectmen, as well as Goodwife Cruff (her main accuser) and other town officials such as Captain Samuel Talcott, the magistrate to the court of Connecticut. Dr. Bulkeley and John Holbrook, both of whom have preached against witchcraft, are also present. Captain Talcott soon calls the inquiry to order and has the clerk read the charges against Kit. The charges quickly move from questions that Kit understands, such as whether or not she visited Hannah Tupper, to wilder accusations, such as casting spells on a range of townspeople, many of whom are there to accuse Kit in person.
Kit is allowed to answer only yes or no, and it seems like she is going to be railroaded until her uncle stands up to defend her. However, when he does, the fact that he had not known Kit was visiting Hannah undercuts the effectiveness of his defenses. Finally, Goodwife Cruff prods her husband into speaking. He stands to present the hornbook with his daughter’s name written in it over and over. Goodwife Cruff says this must be a spell. When Kit admits that she wrote the name but refuses to say why (because she wants to protect Prudence), it looks very bad for her, and the crowd starts to cry out for her death as a witch. Just as Captain Talcott is about to dismiss the inquiry, Nat Eaton appears.
Kit is overjoyed to see him but becomes frightened when she sees that Nat has Prudence with him. Kit tries to protect Prudence and to take responsibility for anything that has happened, but the magistrate shuts her down and insists on examining the little girl. Captain Talcott quizzes Prudence, who hesitatingly admits that Kit had been teaching her to read. Goodman Cruff denies it, saying his daughter is not very bright and cannot be trusted, but when asked to write her name, Prudence does so, and Reverend Bulkeley testifies that it is correct. She then demonstrates that she can read by reading the Bible out loud. Kit is deeply proud of the little girl, and she can see that Nat is as well. Their private triumph spreads, as Goodman Cruff is convinced by what he has seen and heard, and for he once overrules his wife’s malicious words. He is happy...
(The entire section is 819 words.)
Summary and Analysis: Chapter 20
Thankful Peabody: a local woman who gets married the winter after Kit’s trial.
On the day of the first winter snowfall, Mercy insists on getting out of bed, though she is still weak. Mercy loves the snow for how beautiful it makes the world, but Kit is not sure she likes it. She likes the beauty but not how the snow shrinks and muffles the world. That night, once a team of oxen has pulled a plow to partially clear the streets, William comes to visit Kit for the first time since the arrest. The conversation again limps along, until William tries to council Kit to show more judgment in the future and not spend time with people like Hannah Tupper. This leads Kit to a realization that no matter how much they work at it, they will never be enough alike to marry, and she tells William not to come calling anymore.
Kit does not see William again until Thankful Peabody’s wedding. There, she and Judith try to enjoy the festivities, but Judith is caught up in her concerns about her own marriage and Kit is simply lonely. Suddenly, two men who had been part of the Wethersfield militia enter with sad news. Of the twenty men from the village who had joined the militia, only eight returned. Some had been killed, and some had been taken captive, including John Holbrook. Judith faints away at the news, and Mercy, who still loves John secretly, must suffer in silence.
Since the Puritans do not celebrate Christmas, and there is no news of John’s fate, the cold and depressing winter stretches on. By February, Kit is dreaming of the Dolphin and yearning to sail home to Barbados, but it is not until March that conditions change again. In the midst of yet another blizzard, a knock comes at the door. When Kit opens it, John Holbrook stumbles in and falls in the lap of Mercy, his true love.
This chapter provides another of the novel’s happy outcomes, this one for John and Mercy. It is striking how simply their star-crossed love works out; it is as if Speare is saying, “Social conventions are all well and good, but once your life is at stake, you know the meaning of love.” Before that, though, the chapter provides yet another block of evidence that Kit does not belong in Connecticut. While Kit appreciates the alien wonder of the snow, she cannot share Mercy’s deep love for its beauty, and she ultimately...
(The entire section is 429 words.)
Summary and Analysis: Chapter 21
One day in April, two marriages are announced. John Holbrook is going to marry Mercy Wood, and William Ashby is going to marry Judith Wood. The Wood house is very busy preparing for the weddings, which are planned for early May. John goes back to studying with Reverend Bulkeley and is clearer about how to disagree with his highly respected teacher. The weather finally improves enough for ships to start servicing the colony again, and this starts Kit thinking about Barbados and if she could sell her old dresses for enough money to buy passage home.
In mid-April, Kit walks through the town. She notes that as the heavy snows melted, the river flooded until the meadows were covered, which means Hannah’s house would have been flooded as well. Kit begins thinking of the futures that might be and understands that her life is not meant to be there in Connecticut. She suddenly thinks of Nat Eaton with longing, knowing that if they were together, they could sail anywhere they wanted to. That is when Kit remembers Hannah’s words about love and realizes she loves Nat. Is it too late, though, she wonders? All she can do is wait, and so Kit does, until she sees Nat on the wharf on May 2. He is not there with the Dolphin, but with a new ship, his own. He has named it the Witch, not after Hannah (who is happily living with Nat’s grandmother), but after Kit, whom he has been longing for as well. He asks Kit if the new boat is enough to prove him a man of substance to Matthew Wood and if her uncle will let Kit marry Nat. The chapter ends as they are walking arm and arm to the Woods’ house, but the implied answer is clear: Kit and Nat will marry, live together happily ever after, and sail from place to place as the winds and their hearts decide.
While this chapter is emotionally important and satisfying, it is also the logical and almost inevitable working out of themes and dramatic movements that have run throughout the entire novel. It was with Nat on the novel’s first page that Kit first sees Connecticut Colony—in fact, he points it out to her—and it is with Nat on the novel’s last page that Kit makes plans to leave. Just as the year has come full circle through its calendar and seasons, so Kit has moved through her personal cycle: she came from Barbados lost and alone, without any trace of family, and now she has three families, all of which she has transformed...
(The entire section is 553 words.)