I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem

by Maryse Condé 

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Who is asking Tituba if she's a witch in this passage, and what is their intent?

"Are you a witch?" he shouted. "Yes or No!" I sighed. "Everyone gives that word a different meaning. Everyone believes he can fashion a witch to his way of thinking so that she will satisfy his ambitions, dream, and desires."

Quick answer:

The immediate context of the conversation is Tituba's meeting with Christopher, the leader of a gang of revolutionaries called the maroons. He asks Tituba if she is a witch because he wants to know if she has special powers that can make him invincible.

Expert Answers

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The maroons are a group of revolutionaries on the island of Barbados, a kind of anti-colonial resistance movement. Despite everything she's been through, and despite her desire for revenge, Tituba doesn't have the heart to get involved with them. She's simply not prepared to die for them.

Tituba may not want to be involved with the maroons, but they certainly want to be involved with her, or at least their leader Christopher does. The maroons pepper her with questions, such as how many times she's met with Satan, and did she write in his book, and does she know how to write.

Christopher's keen to know if Tituba has special powers. And he comes right out and asks her if she's a witch. In response to the latter question, Tituba prevaricates, saying that everyone gives that word a different meaning. But Christopher has no time for such evasiveness; he wants a straight yes or no answer.

Christopher's impatient with Tituba because if she really is a witch, then he wants her to use her magical powers to make him invincible. He wants to be just like the legendary character of Papa Ti-Noel, a famous character in a folk song whom bullets cannot kill.

In the song, the white man's bullets just bounce off his skin, and Christopher wants the same special powers. Hence his insistent demand to know if Tituba is a witch or not.

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