Maryse Condé’s novel is a fictional treatment of a real-life person who also appears as a character in Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible. The author emphasizes the strong impact that the British colonial system had on this woman’s life. In this system, slavery was legal and transmitted between generations. A baby who was born to an enslaved woman was legally considered a slave and, as such, the property of the slave holder who claimed the mother as property. In Tituba’s case, her father was a white Englishman and a rapist, but he was not the man who claimed ownership of her mother. Disturbed by the futility of resisting the sexual assault of that slave holder, Tituba’s mother ended her own life.
Tituba and John Indian, an enslaved man, entered a relationship that was called a marriage, but both were still considered the slave holder’s property. Reverend Samuel Parris purchases both of them, which gives him the legal right to take them from Barbados and relocate them in a different British colony. In this way, Tituba is transferred to Salem, Massachusetts. Along with continuing in an enslaved status, Tituba also endures exile from her home. The challenges that she faces in Salem, where there are few people of African descent, include accusations of witchcraft.