In many ways, Tituba’s encounter with John Indian teaches her many of the moral lessons that follow her throughout the remainder of the story. Prior to meeting John, Tituba lived in the forest in a small cabin, conversing with three supernatural spirits, Abena, Yao, and Mama Yaya, so that she would never feel lonely. Her encounter with John Indian provides Tituba with new and transformative experiences—the pleasures of sex and genuine love, as well as the humiliation of slavery. It is Susanna Endicott, John’s owner, who eventually decides to sell John Indian to Mr. Samuel Parris, who later moves to Boston.
Unfortunately, Indian proves to be a less than superlative partner. Throughout the story, Tituba finds herself wanting some deeper connection from John, who seems to have resigned himself to fighting for survival even at the expense of his own dignity. In one scene, when Tituba is confronted by a towering, dark figure, she runs to John for comfort. His only words to her, after Tituba confesses that she believes she has just seen “Satan,” are that she is now “talking like a Christian.” Because John’s primary motivation is self-preservation, he has bought into Mr. Parris’s and the other New Englanders’ Puritan convictions and thus cannot provide Tituba with an authentic sense of being loved.
The reason Condé chooses to have Tituba follow John, therefore, is to turn her into a tragic hero. By the end of the story, Tituba is executed for conspiring to start a rebellion, and in the afterlife she commits herself to telling the story of the slaves. It was Tituba’s traumatic experiences in America that gave her the will and motivation (after death) to preserve the story of the slaves and encourage others to fight for emancipation.