illustration of a woman in a black dress with long black hair swimming down through the water toward a smaller human figure

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

by Elizabeth George Speare

Start Free Trial

Summary and Analysis: Chapter 8

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Summary One June morning, Matthew sends Kit and Judith to weed an onion field in the south meadow. They are now dressed exactly alike, as Rachel and Mercy made Kit a calico dress that matches theirs. While the weather still seems chilly compared to what she knew in Barbados, Kit enjoys being outside as much as Judith does. She is also struck by the intense green sprawl of the Great Meadows, something she has never seen, and which is as impressive in its way as the ocean waters she had known and loved. The meadow seems to speak to her, and Kit wishes she could be there just by herself and soak in the peace.

When Judith asks what she is looking at, rather than share this inner feeling, Kit asks about a little house at the edge of a pond. Judith tells her Widow Tupper is the only one who would live in such a place. No one knows what she does when the river floods, and some people say she is a witch. The moment passes, and the girls go on to the onion fields. While they weed—another task Kit is not good at—Kit wonders if she would have to work this way if she married William and immediately realizes that no, she would not. Marrying William would be an escape.

She gets another way to escape when they arrive home: Dr. Bulkeley has suggested that Kit help Mercy teach the “dame school” for the younger children during the summer, which will be held in the Wood family’s kitchen. Kit is surprised to learn that Bulkeley thinks she is capable, and surprised again to learn John Holbrook is the one who told the minister she could read. Kit is pleased, though, both at the idea of escaping some of the harsh physical tasks and when she learns that she will be paid. This will let her contribute to the household, and she lets slip the fact that she overheard the family talking about her when she first arrived. Rachel and her daughters are embarrassed to hear this and explain that they had wished she was a boy because Kit’s uncle needs a boy to help in the fields and because the family’s first child had been a boy. He died, though, after he fell sick with the same illness that crippled Mercy.

AnalysisThe Witch of Blackbird Pond follows a great arc, covering a year in the life of Kit Tyler and the Connecticut Colony. However, before the novel doubles back on itself seasonally (as it does in the last chapters) and geographically (Kit arrives in the first chapter and gets ready to leave in the last chapter), it doubles back on itself in smaller ways to underscore key points and to reintroduce key themes in different ways, much as a fine musical composition might do. This doubling really emerges as a key structural and stylistic feature in this chapter. The first way this happens is through the references to Hannah Tupper. Just as Kit had accusations of witchcraft whispered about her from a distance, so she herself is now hearing someone else whispered about that way, in this case Hannah Tupper. This both reintroduces the fear of witchcraft and how it is applied to the outsider and shows how far Kit has come in becoming part of the community: she is now privy to insider gossip.

Kit’s emotional response to the Great Meadow is another way that the same themes return in different forms. Before, she had only had this sort of deep resonance to the ocean...

(This entire section contains 765 words.)

See This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this study guide. You'll also get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

waves, but the sight of the meadow grasses shows her that she can love nature in a similar fashion in a new place. Another, less lofty, theme that has returned is the desire to escape. Kit actively considers marrying William because it would be a kind of escape from the life of daily toil that she finds so unpleasant. And even though teaching is not a dream of hers, it too would be a way out of daily work. The final return also shows the many ways the past hangs on in the novel. Kit had essentially forgotten her conversation with John aboard the Dolphin—but he has passed it on to Dr. Bulkeley. The Woods had essentially forgotten their first resentful words about Kit’s unexpected appearance—but Kit has remembered and brings them back up. This in turn brings up bitter memories for the entire family, of the time when Mercy fell ill and their older brother died.

Previous

Summary and Analysis: Chapter 7

Next

Summary and Analysis: Chapter 9