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The Witch of Blackbird Pond

by Elizabeth George Speare

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Kit Tyler's identity, religious beliefs, and character development in The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Summary:

Kit Tyler's identity and character development in The Witch of Blackbird Pond are shaped by her religious beliefs and her experiences in a Puritan community. Initially, she struggles with the rigid expectations of the Puritans but gradually learns to appreciate their values while maintaining her individuality. Her journey reflects a balance between conforming to societal norms and staying true to herself.

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What is Kit Tyler's religion in The Witch of Blackbird Pond?

Kit Tyler is an Anglican, a member of the established Church of England. This is just one of the many characteristics that sets her apart from the Puritans of Connecticut. The Puritans were a group of English ultra-Protestants who believed that the Reformation hadn't gone far enough. They wanted to purify the Church of England of all remaining traces of Catholicism. (This is how they got the name Puritan).

Although they were in the ascendancy during and after the English Civil War, they were subject to official persecution and intolerance when the monarchy was restored under Charles II in 1660. It was during this time that many Puritans fled to North America to practice their religion in peace.

It's not surprising, then, that the locals should be so suspicious of Kit when she arrives among them. She's not a Puritan; she's a member of a Church that the locals regard as impure and ungodly and whose governors, along with the state authorities, were responsible for driving them out of England.

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Who is Kit Tyler in The Witch of Blackbird Pond?

Katherine Tyler (also known as "Kit") is the main character in the novel.  The Witch of Blackbird Pond is written in the third-person; therefore, our narrator follows Kit closely throughout the plot of the story.  At the beginning of the novel, we learn that Kit's parents drowned after they were married only a few years.  Therefore, Kit is a young orphan teen who was raised by her grandfather until his death.  Despite the tragedy in her young life, Kit is a smart and creative teen, full of compassion and exuberance.  She is also stubborn, though.  Thinking herself quite contemporary compared to those around her, Kit took it upon herself to move to  Connecticut Colony without telling her extended family.  Kit has a passion for literature (especially Shakespeare) as well as for Barbados (where she spent her early life).  Her latter passion proves Kit to be somewhat nearsighted, however, because Kit's relaxation and joy in her early life happened as a result of slave labor.  Kit also doesn't fully explore the consequences of her actions in regards to her move.  Furthermore, The Witch of Blackbird Pond is a story of Kit finding friendship and love within the troublesome world of Puritan New England. 

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How does Kit Tyler evolve in The Witch of Blackbird Pond?

Kit grows up significantly throughout the book, learning to survive in a different culture.

Kit Tyler goes from being a sheltered rich girl to a generally successful Puritan over the course of the book.  The culture she grew up in is completely different from the one she finds herself in when she is in Wethersfield.  She grew up in warm Barbados with slaves to do her work, reading Shakespeare and generally living a life of luxury.  Wethersfield is cold and harsh, with hard work and strict rules.

One of the first mistakes Kit makes is to jump into the water to try to retrieve Prudence’s doll.  This is a huge mistake because no one in Wethersfield swims.  The Puritans believe that if a woman is in the water and doesn’t sink, she must be a witch.  Kit has no idea about these beliefs.  She just wants to help the little girl.

On the ship on the way to Wethersfield, Kit meets Nat Eaton.  At first, their relationship is more like a couple of bickering teenagers.  They get under each other’s skin.  However, Nat is actually one of the few people to understand Kit.  He develops an interest in her, and she realizes it much later on.  This realization is evidence that Kit is changing, and growing up.

When Kit first arrives in Wethersfield, she has trunks of useful beautiful dresses and no practical skills.  Since she wants to be of use to her aunt and uncle, Kit tries to learn how to do household chores.  She is used to having slaves to do them.  She has never really had to do hard labor.  Kit never really comes to enjoy work, but she does get better at it.

Another of the ways Kit is different from the typical Wethersfield resident is that she befriends Hannah Tupper, an old woman everyone thinks is a witch.  Nat also cares about Hannah, and comes to help her out whenever his ship brings him in town.  This is how Nat and Kit get to know each other better.

Kit seems to understand that she will eventually have to get married.  She catches the eye of a very eligible bachelor named William Ashby, who happens to be rich.

If she should many William Ashby, would he expect her to weed his vegetables for him? Her hands stopped moving at all while she considered this. No, she was quite certain he never would. Did it seem likely that his mother, who sat so elegantly in meeting, had ever touched a chokeweed? (Ch. 8) 

Although Kit could live a comparatively luxurious life with William, she realizes she is not in love with him.  For a while she tries to get to know him, but there is just no attraction between them.  When Nat illuminates the house Ashby is building for Kit with jack-o-lanterns, Kit realizes he is jealous.  She also comes to the understanding that Nat is in love with her, and she loves him too. 

Nat compares Kit to a tropical bird. 

Kit giggled. "Are you saying I’ve turned into a crow?"

"Not exactly." His eyes were intensely blue with merriment. "I can still see the green feathers if I look hard enough. But they've done their best to make you into a sparrow, haven't they?" (Ch. 12) 

He believes that she will never fit in there, no matter how hard she tries.  She realizes that he right.  She is much happier traveling the seas with him than trying to keep house in the frigid winters of Connecticut.  Part of growing up is coming to understand who you are, and what you really want.  Kit does this, eventually.

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How do Kit's views of her family change in The Witch of Blackbird Pond?

Kit's views of Mercy and Aunt Rachel remain mostly the same. Kit finds Aunt Rachel to be kind and warm. She sees Mercy as humble and sympathetic. She views them both in this way throughout the book. Near the end of the book, Kit discovers that Aunt Rachel is more courageous than she had previously thought. Aunt Rachel visits Kit as she is locked up in the constable's shed. Kit acknowledges the "courage [it] must... have taken for Rachel to brave her husband's anger" (The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Chapter 18).

Her view of Judith changes slightly. At times, Kit finds Judith to be selfish. Eventually, she comes to understand her cousin.

Kit's views about her Uncle Matthew change the most drastically. When the constable comes to have Kit arrested, he defends her honor. During the trial, Uncle Matthew vouches for Kit's character and defends her. Uncle Matthew even defends Nat, who has been threatened with lashes.

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