(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem is a fictionalized portrait of a historical figure who was a main participant in the notorious Salem witch trials of 1692. The novel is divided into three parts. The first section traces Tituba’s childhood as a slave in Barbados as well as her voyage across the sea to seventeenth century New England. The second section recounts Tituba’s adventures in Massachusetts, including her experiences as an accused witch in Salem Village. The last section tells of Tituba’s return to a much-changed Barbados and her execution as a revolutionary. The story is told by Tituba herself, lending an immediacy and power to the narrative.

The main themes of the novel, the violence of slavery and the oppression of women by men, are established in the opening sentence as Tituba recounts the circumstances that surround her conception. She says simply, “Abena, my mother was raped by an English sailor on the deck of Christ the King one day in the year 16—.” This savage incident foreshadows other events in Tituba’s life in which she is treated cruelly by both white and black men.

After Abena arrives in Barbados, she becomes the house slave of a plantation owner. When he discovers that she is pregnant, he banishes her from the house to the fields. When Tituba is seven, she witnesses the attempted rape of her mother by the master. Abena defends herself and stabs him. Although the master does not die, Abena is hanged for attacking a white man.

After Abena’s death, Tituba is adopted by Mama Yaya, a natural healer who teaches Tituba her art. Tituba becomes proficient in using spells and herbs for healing. When Tituba is fourteen, Mama Yaya dies, and Tituba lives in the forest. However, Tituba is not alone. Mama Yaya and Abena act as her spirit guides and offer her solace and advice.

Tituba eventually ventures into the surrounding towns and meets John Indian. Smitten with the smooth-talking slave,...

(The entire section is 808 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Arnold, A. James. “The Novelist as Critic.” World Literature Today 67, no. 4 (Autumn, 1993): 711-717. Discusses I, Tituba within the context of the triangle trade and the racism of Puritanism.

Bernstein, Lisa A. “Demythifying the Witch’s Identity as Social Critique in Maryse Condé’s I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem.” Social Identities 3 (February, 1997): 77-89. An astute exploration of the voices of women writers in Caribbean literature.

Dukats, Mara L. “The Hybrid Terrain of Literary Imagination: Maryse Condé’s Black Witch of Salem, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Hester Prynne, and Aime Cesaire’s Heroic Poetic Voice.” College Literature 22, no. 1 (February, 1995): 51-61. Discusses the issue of “voicelessness” as it relates to the shaping of identity in the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Aime Cesaire, and Condé.

Dukats, Mara L. “A Narrative of Violated Maternity: Moi, Tituba, Sorcière . . . Noire de Salem.” World Literature Today 67, no. 4 (Autumn, 1993): 745-750. Explores the feminist theme of the violated slave mother and relates it to colonization.

Manzor-Coats, Lillian. “Of Witches and Other Things: Maryse Condé’s Challenges to Feminist Discourse.” World Literature Today 67, no. 4 (Autumn, 1993): 737-744. Connects the black woman as “witch” to angry contemporary women and feminism.

Mudimbe-Boyi, Elisabeth. “Giving a Voice to Tituba: The Death of the Author?” World Literature Today 67, no. 4 (Autumn, 1993): 751-756. Parallels reconstruction of Tituba’s history to that of Caribbean history.