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

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Summary and Analysis: Chapter 9

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New Characters
Timothy Cook: a little boy in Mercy and Kit’s class.

Charity Hughes: a little girl in Mercy and Kit’s class.

Peter: the little boy in Mercy and Kit’s class who is beaten during the play of the Good Samaritan.

Mr. Eleazer Kimberley: the schoolmaster who interrupts the play.

Reverend John Woodbridge: the minister who accompanies Mr. Kimberley when he interrupts the play.

Summary
Kit is helping Mercy teach eleven of the younger children in the community how to read. Mercy is very patient, but Kit, while she likes the children and connects with them as she does not with their parents, gets bored by the droning repetition and moralistic rhymes, and starts making up little rhymes about the children. The six children assigned to Kit are fascinated. This is part of a general impulse by Kit to bring their education to life, as she does by rewarding their memorization with stories. That day, Kit is going to tell them the story of the Good Samaritan, but since the children all already know the story, Kit has an idea. She decides to have them act the story out. Mercy is not sure that is a good idea, but the children enter into the pretending with vigor. At first they are excited, but then things get out of hand: Kit had chosen the three worst behaved boys in the school to play the robbers who assault the traveler, and they start pounding on the boy for real.

Before Kit and Mercy can break up the fight, Mr. Eleazer Kimberley and Reverend John Woodbridge enter the kitchen and start caning the unruly boys. The two men are horrified at what they have found and are scandalized to learn that there has been “play-acting” in school, which they consider sinful. Kit takes responsibility for the activity and is immediately dismissed. Before they leave, the two men say they will have to consider whether Mercy is responsible enough to keep teaching the children as well.

Mercy is left in tears, and Kit is so upset that she runs from the house. She is not sure where she is going but somehow finds her way to the Great Meadows, where she collapses in the tall grass. She cries for a long time, until at last she feels at peace. About that time, Kit realizes she is not alone. She is being watched by a very old woman with white hair. It is Hannah Tupper, the supposed witch of Blackbird Pond. However, despite some oddities in her appearance, such as pale eyes and a scar on her forehead, Hannah turns out to be very nice. She invites Kit to her home to clean up and have a snack, and Kit, curious, follows her. She finds Hannah’s home a clean and welcoming place, full of pleasant details like a friendly cat and a bit of coral a friend had given Hannah, a gift that reminds Kit of her home. When Hannah asks Kit about Barbados and her beloved grandfather, Kit shares her story, including how unhappy she has been since she came to the colony. Kit asks Hannah for advice, but rather than answering her directly, Hannah points Kit back to her own heart, where, she indicates, the important answers will always be found.

Analysis
This chapter introduces three new and important developments. First, Kit starts teaching school. This is the first activity she has enjoyed (and found herself good at) since she arrived in Connecticut. Almost immediately, she ruins this opportunity through, essentially, acting on her own character and background rather than taking the context of the colony into account. The second development comes from Kit sharing her love of and pleasure in the arts with the children without thinking and without realizing that what she is doing is not just new but, according to the Puritans, sinful.

When Kit runs away to the meadow and meets Hannah, the final major character of the novel is introduced in person. This third development is crucial in helping Kit survive and grow. Hannah gives Kit a refuge from the harsh Puritan standards and serves as a stand-in for Hannah’s beloved grandfather. When Hannah starts guiding Kit, it is easy to see that many of Kit’s stumbles come not just from being new to the community but because she is so desperately alone in Connecticut.

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Summary and Analysis: Chapter 8

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Summary and Analysis: Chapter 10