Questions 1. How are Nat Eaton and William Ashby similar and different?
2. How are Mercy and Kit similar and different?
3. How do the men’s positions regarding the colonial charter differ?
4. How are Hannah and Kit similar and different?
5. In what ways was Kit’s beloved Barbados superior to Connecticut, and how is Connecticut similar (in her mind)?
Answers 1. Nat Eaton and William Ashby are alike in many ways. On the most basic level, they are both young men who are coming into their manhood at a time when the colonies are maturing as communities. The two young men must therefore act not just for themselves but as representatives of different aspects of colonial society. Both are also very practical, seeking their goals and working toward them, even if that means risk. Of course, they are also alike in that they both want to marry Kit.
They differ in character, affiliation, and approach to life. While William is willing to be daring for a good cause (as when he helps steal and hide the charter), he is mostly conservative by nature. William would be happiest simply upholding the norms and values of his community. By contrast, Nat is far more adventurous, in both public ways and private. He is willing to “illuminate” William’s house for no more benefit than personal satisfaction, and he returns to help Kit even when it is against the law. He also helps Hannah though no one knows it except Hannah. Nat follows his heart; William lets his heart be dictated to.
2. Mercy and Kit are alike in that they are both young women who are somewhat out of place in their own homes. However, Kit is out of place because she was raised elsewhere and because her character is outgoing; Mercy is out of place because her childhood illness crippled her, leaving her unable to easily enter into many of the town’s communal activities.
They are also alike in that they appreciate John Holbrook as a person, that they enjoy teaching the young, and that they have secrets they cannot speak for social reasons: Mercy cannot voice her love for John; Kit cannot voice her love for Hannah.
They are different, most of all, though, in their characters. Mercy is the essence of Christian love: she is patient, accepting, and charitable. Kit is fiery. She loves as intensely as Mercy does but takes discipline less well.
3. William Ashby speaks for the practical position: he says that it is too risky for the colony to challenge the king. Dr. Bulkeley argues that the colony has misinterpreted the charter and, essentially, is in the wrong. Matthew Wood says that the king and the royal governor have infringed on the colony’s rights as articulated in the charter.
4. Hannah and Kit are alike in their hearts. They love freely and want to live by their hearts. This is seen in their responses to the Great Meadow, to Prudence’s loneliness, and to their pain. It is also visible in how their beloveds stay with them: Kit’s memories of her grandfather and Hannah’s of her lost husband are always close at hand. They are willing to be outsiders if that’s what it takes to follow their hearts: in that, they are both the witches of Blackbird Pond.
They differ, of course, in where they are in their lives—Kit is young and about to marry, while Hannah is old and widowed—but also in their faiths. Hannah is an outsider because of her faith, which is part of what calms and sustains her soul. Kit is spiritual,...
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but not deeply religious, and lives as secular an existence as one could in the time.
5. At first, Kit thinks that Barbados is superior in all ways. She knew love and leisure there. The buildings were superior, and the colors of plants and clothing were much brighter. Later, though, Kit comes to know and love New England. In particular, she loves the explosion of colors that come with autumn. Moreover, New England produces people who touch her heart: Hannah, Mercy, Matthew, John, Judith, and Nat. While she never says so explicitly, it is also implied that Kit comes to understand the political and economic differences: that the leisure and freedom she had known in Barbados was purchased with slave labor.