What are some of Tituba's character traits in The Crucible?

Some of Tituba's character traits in The Crucible are naivety, spiritedness, and empathy. We can see the first two in her cavorting around the forest at night, and her empathy is displayed in her concern for Betty.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Tituba is depicted as a compassionate, naive woman who is manipulated by Abigail Williams and perpetuates the witchcraft hysteria the moment she recognizes she is the scapegoat. Tituba is Reverend Parris's slave from Barbados and does not fully understand the austerity of Salem's Puritan society. Since Tituba is not acquainted with Puritan culture, she does not find conjuring spirits or dancing in the forest a serious transgression. Her lack of knowledge regarding her foreign surroundings and initial response to Abigail's accusations highlight her naivety.

Tituba also demonstrates her compassionate, loving nature by expressing her concern for Betty and confessing her love for the "little children." The audience recognizes Tituba does not have malevolent intentions and only attempted to conjure Ruth's dead sisters as a favor to her. Tituba also mentions that Abigail begged her to place a charm on Elizabeth, which is the only reason she agreed to do it.

Tituba is also depicted as an impressionable, conflicted woman who is resourceful when faced with adversity. Once Tituba realizes the gravity of the situation, she unburdens herself by expressing her negative feelings towards Reverend Parris and her desire to kill him. Tituba's confession reveals her conflicted situation as a slave, who is forced to obey her domineering master while harboring deep feelings of resentment.

It is only when Reverend Parris and Thomas Putnam threaten violence that Tituba begins naming disreputable citizens in hopes of protecting herself. At this moment, Tituba understands she is the scapegoat and recognizes an opportunity to save her life by accusing others of witchcraft. Tituba's ability to analyze the situation and begin naming others to divert attention illustrates her resourceful nature. The audience recognizes Tituba is simply trying to save herself and cannot blame her for perpetuating the witchcraft hysteria.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Having been brought to America as a slave from Barbados, Tituba is somewhat naive concerning the prevailing moral standards of Salem. Puritanism is alien to her, a belief system that in no way corresponds to the cultural practices in which her people engage.

Whereas Puritans such as the Reverend Parris would be horrified at her strange cavortings in the forest, to Tituba it's just normal practice, an everyday part of her cultural heritage. She certainly has no idea of how evil such practices are regarded by the townsfolk of Salem.

As well as being naive, Tituba is a very spirited young woman. Again, one can observe this through her dancing in the forest on that fateful night. To a large extent, this is because she feels a deep, abiding connection to the spirit world that is an essential part of her belief system. Tituba is a young woman of spirit, in a way that cannot be said of the girls who danced with her.

Tituba can also be described as empathetic. To see this, one only has to observe her concern for Betty Parris. Tituba says that she loves Betty and expresses the wish that she get well soon. Although Betty is shamming her supposed illness, Tituba's concern for her well-being is completely genuine, all the same.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Tituba appears mainly in Act 1 of the play and then briefly in Act 4.  When Tituba first enters, she demonstrates timidity and motherliness.  Whether her timidity is a natural or "nurtured" character trait is debatable because she is used to bearing the blame for much of what happens in the Parris household.  Miller, the playwright, notes in Act 1 before Tituba's first lines that she is

"very frightened because her slave sense has warned her that, as always, trouble in [the Parris] house eventually lands on her back."

Despite her obvious fear of Rev. Parris and other town leaders, Tituba does not let that fear interfere with her sense of motherhood which she demonstrates toward little Betty Parris.  As she enters the room where Betty lies in a coma-like state, Tituba is pained that she was kept for so long from her "beloved."  Unlike Betty's own father, Tituba does not think about how Betty's condition will "damage her reputation"; she is mainly worried about Betty's well-being.

Tituba is also a very spirited, entertaining character.  She must have been for Puritan girls to risk so much in order to listen to her tales from Barbados and beyond.  She is believable to the girls, perhaps in part because she is so different from the norm in the Puritan community.

When Tituba is whipped and threatened into confessing to witchcraft, she demonstrates the complete demoralization of a human.  She realizes that she has nothing left to save her.  One, whom she thought of as a family member--Abigail--has betrayed her, and there is literally no one left to defend her.  As a last resort she confesses and names names in order to protect her life.  At this point, she is certainly a desperate character, but like her timidity, this is a character trait that is literally beaten into her.

Finally, at the beginning of Act 4, Tituba shows a lack of sanity.  Perhaps her long stint in jail combined with her already superstitious nature caused her to lean toward insanity.  It would cause the same for most people.  Tituba's last words,

"Take me home, Devil! Take me home!"

illustrate that she is somewhat crazy or that she is so discouraged with what has occurred in the town that she believes it would be better to be with the devil than to be trapped in Salem.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team