I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem

by Maryse Condé 

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In I, Tituba, what is Condé's message about Tituba through her relationships with John, Benjamin, Christopher, and Iphigene?

“On the rare occasions when John Indian came into the barn where I lay groaning, he seemed in excellent health, well fed, his clothes washed and ironed ... And I recalled Hester’s words: ‘Life is too kind to men, whatever their color’” (Condé 108).

Quick answer:

During much of her life, Tituba enters relationships with men who could be equal partners and help her advance her personal goals. Her relationships with John and Benjamin are only temporarily satisfying. Both leave her, but Benjamin frees her from slavery. A significant shift occurs when she teams up with Christopher and Iphigene, as they seem to share the goal of transforming society. However, Christopher betrays both her and the movement, resulting in her death.

Expert Answers

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Throughout the course of the novel, Tituba develops as a person in part through her relationships with a variety of men. She shares some significant characteristics with each of them, but for much of her life her needs and goals are individually focused. Tituba must endure the hardships of slavery as long as she remains enslaved, and she strives to be liberated from that state. An important change occurs, however, after she returns to Barbados and becomes involved with a movement, not just a man. Her goals broaden out to address the collective situation of her fellow slaves. Although two of the men with whom she becomes involved seem similarly committed to a liberation movement, one of them turns out to be traitor. While Tituba’s death may be seen as tragic, it may also be analyzed as a noble sacrifice to a cause. She is thus transformed from witch to martyr.

Tituba’s first relationship with John Indian is based in large part in their shared enslaved state. They further share the experiences of being taken to England and then to colonial New England with no say in the matter. After Tituba’s witchcraft accusation, John counsels her how to plead but ultimately abandons her.

The next relationship, with Benjamin Cohen d’Azevedo, arises from her enslaved state as well, but he is her owner rather than a fellow slave. Although they share elements of difference from dominant society, as Cohen is Jewish, he is free and owns other humans. When he leaves her, Cohen releases her from enslavement.

A major shift occurs when Tituba returns to Barbados. Now that she is free, she understands the importance of committing to the liberation of all enslaved peoples, which means ending colonial domination. This commitment forms part of her bond with both Christopher and Iphigene. Christopher, however, proves unworthy and not only abandons but actually betrays her, leading to her death and that of Iphigene. Her desire to effect change beyond her own situation thus causes her to sacrifice her life.

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