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The Witch of Blackbird Pond

by Elizabeth George Speare

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How do churchgoers react to Kit in The Witch of Blackbird Pond? Why did they expect someone different?

Quick answer:

Kit, an outsider to the Puritan congregation and viewed as someone not to be trusted, wears clothing that is considered sinful.

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In Chapter 5, when Kit first attends Sunday service with her uncle's family, after the service, she finds that the men, such as the pastor and the deacons, greet her warmly, but their wives look at her with "suspicion and downright hostility." Kit speculates that one reason for the coldness seems to be due to the fact that her uncle must have told the town that they took Kit in out of charity, which is fairly true. Kit was an orphan being raised by her grandfather who became ill and recently died. While he was ill, he lost all of his fortune, leaving Kit penniless and needing to find a new home. However, regardless of the truth of her charitable needs, Kit has arrived in church dressed in the highest, wealthy fashion, wearing a floral print silk gown, slippers, and a bonnet with a graceful feather. Since the Puritans rejected any sort of vanity, the pastor's wife and deacons' wives view her as an immoral outsider who is not to be trusted. Even the other churchgoers keep their distance from Kit, and Goodwife Cruff leads the other women in the congregation into a huddle in which they whisper about and glare at Kit. The best passage describing the congregation's reaction to Kit can be seen in the lines:

Had Uncle Matthew informed the whole town that he had taken her in out of charity? If so, then she was obviously a surprise to them, by the suspicion and downright hostility with which the deacons' wives were surveying her from feathered hat to slippered toe. She did not look like a pauper. Let them make what they liked of that! (Ch. 5)

Hence, as we can see from this passage, they were expecting to see Kit as a poor waif, someone more like themselves. What's more, one practice of the Puritans was what is known as "conversion," which was a "rejection of the 'worldliness' of society and a strict adherence to Biblical principles" ("Puritans"). Thus, just as her uncle exclaims at the beginning of the chapter, the congregation viewed Kit's wealthy attire as vain "frippery" and a means of "mock[ing] the Lord's assembly."

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