Why doesn’t Prudence go to school with the rest of the children?

Prudence doesn't go to school because her mother, Goodwife Cruff, thinks that Prudence is “too stupid” and worries about the influence of other children.

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In chapter 11, Prudence tells Kit that her father wanted to send her to school, but her mother said she's "too stupid." However, Goodwife Cruff's reasons for keeping her child out of school go beyond that. Prudence also tells Kit, who teaches at the school, that Prudence has been forbidden...

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In chapter 11, Prudence tells Kit that her father wanted to send her to school, but her mother said she's "too stupid." However, Goodwife Cruff's reasons for keeping her child out of school go beyond that. Prudence also tells Kit, who teaches at the school, that Prudence has been forbidden to even speak to Kit.

In chapter 1, Goodwife Cruff becomes suspicious when Kit jumps out of the boat to rescue Prudence's doll. Nat explains to Kit that Goodwife Cruff thinks Kit is a witch because she can swim. He tells Kit about the water trial:

A true witch will always float. The innocent ones just sink like a stone.

Goodman Cruff could have sent Prudence to school despite his wife's wishes, as men were considered the head of the household. However, he defers to Goodwife Cruff and even seems a little afraid of her. In chapter 2, Prudence is forced to stand behind her parents during a meal rather than sitting at the table with them. She eats the "stingy portion" of food they hand back to her. A few times Kit sees Goodman Cruff "furtively slip the child an extra morsel from his plate, but he was plainly too spineless to stand up for her against his shrew of a wife."

In chapter 19, Prudence tells the magistrate that Kit taught her to read and write and demonstrates that she can do both. Goodwife Cruff is so convinced of her daughter's inability to learn and of Kit's guilt that she continues to insist that Kit has bewitched Prudence. She doesn't back down until her husband finally stands up for the little girl.

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