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Throughout the first three chapters of Elizabeth George Speare's award-winning young reader's novel The Witch of Blackbird Pond, protagonist Kit Tyler has proven herself to be a nonconformist and a bit rebellious. Her nonconformity sparks Nat's parting words to her in Chapter Three: "Remember ... Only the guilty ones stay afloat." Nat's parting words echo the sentiment he expressed earlier in Chapter One.
In Chapter One, Kit demonstrates her nonconformity by jumping from the longboat into the icy cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean to rescue Prudence Cruff's wooden doll. Prudence had accidentally dropped the doll from the boat while "holding her up to see the ship." Kit was shocked by peoples' uncaring reactions to the lost doll. She protested, urging the captain to swing back around because it would be easy to fetch, but he refused. Therefore, having been taught how to swim in her childhood, Kit jumped from the boat and swam to rescue the doll herself.
Kit was astonished to see the reactions of the people in the boat. Instead of being grateful, as she had expected, the people were furious and even suspicious. Nat in particular was furious because, having assumed she could not swim and would drown, he jumped in after her to rescue her. Nat feels she had demonstrated selfishness, not generosity, because she failed to inform him she could swim and ruined his only clothes by forcing him to jump in after her.
But, more disconcerting than Nat's anger is Goodwife Cruff's reaction to Kit having swam, as reported by Nat. Once back on the ship, Nat must inform Kit that his father, the ship's captain, has asked Kit to dine with the Cruffs now that Captain Eaton's wife has been brought to shore. When Kit rebels against dining with such a horrible woman, Nat replies, "She has been insisting to my father that you are a witch. She says no respectable woman could keep afloat in the water like that." Nat continues to taunt Kit by referring to the "water trial," saying, "Tis a sure test ... A true witch will always float. The innocent ones just sink like stone."
The reason why Kit knows how to swim is because her grandfather taught her as a young child, and Kit is astounded to learn that the Puritans do not think swimming is acceptable behavior for women. The more her new Puritan society learns about her, the more she proves to be a nonconformist to society. Plus, the more she learns about Puritan society, the more she rebels against it.
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