I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem

by Maryse Condé 

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Explain how Tituba’s sexuality can be viewed as “the betrayal” of “morality” as conveyed by the dominant discourses between the seventeenth and twentieth centuries.

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Throughout I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem, the question of Tituba’s sexuality is constantly raised as a challenge to the dominant discourses about morality, which pertain both to proper female comportment and Afro-descendant people’s agency. By situating her exploration in the colonial era and in both North American and the Caribbean region, Maryse Condé connects issues that concerned her in the twentieth century, when she was writing, with their historical development.

One fundamental aspect of morality is concerned with Tituba’s designation as a witch, which she identifies with healing. For the dominant white European society, however, her knowledge is suspect because she has powers that are associated with evil, rather than good intentions. This dangerous power is associated with sexuality through efforts to control male sexuality even more than expressing female desire.

Patriarchal society does not condone slaves rejecting men’s sexual advances; even wives were expected to submit to their husbands. The concept of spousal rape gained legal status late in the twentieth century. Attempting to resist her male attackers would endanger her, as submissive behavior was not only expected but legally required. Tituba retains the disturbing image of the punishment that had been inflicted on her own mother for fending off her white master. Regardless of her own intentions, once Tituba has been sexually assaulted, she is tainted in society’s eyes.

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