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The Witch of Blackbird Pond

by Elizabeth George Speare
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What do Nat's and William's behavior during the trial tell you about their personalities in The Witch of Blackbird Pond?

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After Kit is accused of being a witch, the town authorities take her into custody and then put her on trial (chapter 19). Her friendship with Hannah Tupper is associated with the mysterious illness that has afflicted the children, and Kit’s witchcraft is thought to be responsible. Captain Talcott presides over the trial. A guilty verdict will mean death for Kit. The charges include casting spells on numerous townspeople, who are present to affirm their accusations. Prudence’s mother, Goodwife Cruff, is the main accuser.

While putting on a brave face, inside Kit is near despair because she believes that the verdict is predetermined. Nevertheless, she will not speak against another person if doing so might harm them as well. Kit’s behavior in the courtroom is highly circumscribed. The procedure for questioning her only allows her to answer yes or no to the questions posed unless she is specifically asked to elaborate. Her inability to provide details or context greatly diminishes her defense.

One piece of evidence that seems especially damning is her hornbook. Only she and Prudence know that they were using it in Prudence’s reading lessons. Goodwife Cruff is very upset to find her daughter’s name written there and can only believe that it was part of Kit’s spell. Kit can only admit that she wrote the name and, when pressed, will not elaborate, because she is trying to protect Prudence, who up to this point was not present.

Nat, who is not actually involved in the proceedings, was not in the court during Kit’s testimony. He has liberty to come and go as he pleases. His concern is to save Kit, and he does not assume that her fate is already sealed. Nat persuades Prudence to speak on her behalf. Because he believes that justice can still be served, he is not convinced that her speaking out will be harmful to her. While both Kit and Nat are loyal, their loyalties are to different people and principles.

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