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The Witch of Blackbird Pond

by Elizabeth George Speare

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Discussion Topic

Kit's initial impressions and feelings towards the Wood family and William in The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Summary:

Kit initially finds the Wood family cold and strict compared to her previous life in Barbados. She feels out of place and struggles with their Puritan lifestyle. Her feelings towards William are mixed; while he is interested in her, she is unsure about him and feels pressured by his intentions, leading to confusion and discomfort.

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What are Kit's and the Wood family's first impressions of each other in The Witch of Blackbird Pond?

Kit did not tell the Woods that she was coming to live with them, and she had never even met them before she showed up at their door. The Woods would naturally be surprised to see her. Also, Kit came from Barbados, a colony where she had a much different upbringing from the stuffy Puritanical ways of Wethersfield.

The Woods are shocked from the very first time they see Kit in her fancy clothes, which stand out as a metaphor for how different she is from everyone else there.

"You wore a dress like that to travel in?"

In her eagerness to make a good impression Kit had selected this dress with care, but here in this plain room it seemed over elegant. The three other women were all wearing some nondescript sort of coarse gray stuff. (Ch. 3) 

The Woods are shocked at Kit’s flashy dresses and the fact that she has never worked a day in her life. She reads plays instead of the Bible. She doesn’t understand their customs, and while she tries to respect them, she is also not afraid to show when she disapproves.

The Woods are also not afraid to show they disapprove of her. Kit doesn’t have an appropriate dress for Meeting (church). She doesn’t know how to cook or clean. She is impatient and her cousins see her as somewhat of a threat or a nuisance. She is a threat because there is another woman in the house whom men like William Ashby might court, and she is a nuisance because they have to teach her and do her chores.

First impressions aside, Kit and the Woods eventually find a way to coexist. Kit makes herself more or less useful, and all of the girls pair themselves off with eligible bachelors. Kit realizes that she has to find a way to live in Wethersfield, and they have to live with her.

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What are Kit's initial feelings towards William in The Witch of Blackbird Pond?

When Kit meets William Ashby, she is surprised that he does not regard her with the suspicion everyone else does. Instead, he seems pleasingly intrigued by her, and she smiles at him, making him speechless. When he comes to call on her, however, he is wooden and unable to make conversation. She finds that although he is very shy in front of her, he is actually quite smart and willing to stand up to her formidable uncle. Kit finds William's weekly calls stressful, as he does not say anything and just sits and stares at her, but William seems determined to court her and perhaps to marry her. Kit is not as enthusiastic about his calls. She resents the certainty with which he regards their impending marriage, but, at first, she finds herself thinking about him because she has little else to think about and because he expects nothing of her during his calls.

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What are Kit's initial feelings towards William in The Witch of Blackbird Pond?

Kit Tyler's relationship to William Ashby is a complex one that initially operates around the social and socioeconomic customs of the time. Before we dive into this relationship, it's important to remember that Kit's experience of Puritan New England requires significant adjustment on her part after leaving behind her luxurious life in Barbados. Kit--who was used to the privileges that came with financial security in a non-religious environment--must entirely change her lifestyle, from learning how to dress pragmatically and modestly to becoming used to doing her own chores. Thus, when William--the wealthiest unmarried man in Wethersfield--shows interest in her, she chooses to be open to the courtship. Although she does not find William to be an interesting suitor or one with which she could develop any true romance, she does consider marrying him for the social and financial perks that he could provide: an elevation from her average station in life, a reprieve from physical labor, and a chance to regain some aspects of the lifestyle she had lived in Barbados.

Ultimately, Kit does not end up with William (a smart move after he abandons her when she is put on trial for being a witch!), but her evaluation of him as a potential husband is still a reasonable and significant component of her character's growth over the course of the novel. 

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