Questions and Answers: Characters and Origins

1. What happened to Kit’s parents?

2. Who does Rachel Wood think Kit is when they first meet?

3. Who is the first person from Wethersfield to speak to Kit?

4. What brought Hannah to Wethersfield?

5. Kit’s grandfather was rich. Why is Kit poor?

1. Kit’s parents died when she was very young. They had been married for only three years when they sailed to Antigua and drowned. After that, Kit’s grandfather raised her.

2. Rachel Wood thinks Kit is Margaret (Kit’s mother/Rachel’s sister). This reaction shows how much Kit looks like her mother but also how much Rachel misses her sister.

3. The first person from Wethersfield who speaks to Kit is Goodwife Cruff, who tells Kit aboard the Dolphin that she must be crazy.

4. Hannah and Thomas Tupper were run out of Massachusetts because they were Quakers. They settled in Wethersfield because Thomas was from Kent, England, and Wethersfield reminded him of Kent.

5. Kit’s grandfather had indeed been rich. He had owned a substantial plantation, but then he was sick for many years. While he was weak, he trusted the wrong man, his overseer Bryant. Bryant stole from him, breaking his heart and driving him into debt. Once he died, Kit had to sell everything to pay off those debts.

Questions and Answers: Goals and Motivations

1. Why is John Holbrook coming to Wethersfield?

2. Why do the Woods wish Kit were a boy when she comes to live with them?

3. Why does Kit jump into the water as the Dolphin sails into Saybrook Harbor?

4. What motivates Matthew Wood to accept Kit into his home?

5. Why does William Ashby want to marry Kit?

1. John Holbrook is coming to Wethersfield to study with Dr. Bulkeley, who is widely known as an accomplished minister. John has a deep love of religious learning, which he first yearned to follow to Harvard, but his family was too poor.

2. On a practical level, the Woods wish Kit were a boy because Matthew Wood needs the help on the farm. On the emotional level, it is implied that Matthew and Rachel miss their deceased boy.

3. Kit jumps into the water to save the wooden toy Prudence Cruff had dropped. You might also say, though, that she jumps into the water because she does not think much of it—where she is from the water is warm and everyone can swim— and because she is kind-hearted.

4. Duty. Kit is family, and Matthew (and all good members of his community) believed that family was a duty one must support. He accepts her despite his own wishes, despite the costs, and despite the inconvenience. Given Kit’s politics, her slave-owning background, and her flashy clothing, she might well have seemed quite a burden, and even a risk of sin, but Matthew’s duty trumped all of this.

5. Curiously, the book never really says. It is clear that he is struck by Kit’s colorful appearance the first time they meet and that he is drawn to her, but he never really does accept her. In fact, in chapter 20, William says that he thought Kit would someday forget her old ways. He does not love how she acts, and he does not seem to care about what she thinks; perhaps his is simply a physical and social love?

Questions and Answers: Similarities and Differences

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)?

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.


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Questions and Answers: Key Details

1. What happens at the husking bee?

2. How and why does John agree to marry Judith?

3. Why is Kit dismissed from teaching “dame school”?

4. John and Mercy never discuss their love. How does Kit learn of it?

5. Why did Matthew Wood banish Dr. Bulkeley from his home, and what made Wood change his mind?

1. The husking bee is a way to make some of the work of the community into shared fun. It is a custom that if one of the young people finds a red ear of corn, he or she can “claim a forfeit” (i.e., choose a prize). This is an excuse for single young men and women to kiss in public without getting in trouble.

2. John says that he wants to talk to Judith’s father about something, and Judith jumps to conclusions. She assumes he is asking for her hand in marriage and essentially throws herself on him and makes a public declaration. When Matthew joins in and gives his permission and congratulations, John is too embarrassed and too good-hearted to correct people. It seems like he would have let himself get railroaded into marrying the wrong woman. In fact, being captured by Indians is the only way John gets out of marrying Judith!

3. Kit is dismissed for engaging in “play-acting.” The Puritans saw drama as innately sinful and thought children needed to be disciplined into proper behavior.

4. John usually reads the Bible aloud when he visits the Wood family home, but one evening he reads the poetry of Anne Bradstreet, a colonial poet who writes eloquently of love. Kit happens to look at Mercy while John is reading, and her face is filled with love. Though neither member of the couple speak at that time, Kit is absolutely certain of Mercy’s love, and later, the night of the husking bee, John confirms that he loves Mercy equally and always has.

5. Wood banished the minister because of their political differences and because the minister had essentially preached to him about those political differences in his (Matthew’s) own home. This was both irritating and insulting, and it may have seemed a bit of a political threat to Matthew Wood.

He changes his mind when Mercy falls deeply ill. He in fact is ready to go get the learned minister when Bulkeley arrives on his own with a remedy that helps save Mercy’s life. Pride and politics cause Matthew to ban the minister; love for his daughter rescinds the ban.

Questions and Answers: Witchcraft!

1. What is the first reason anyone thinks Kit might be a witch?

2. Why do the citizens of Wethersfield think Hannah Tupper is a witch?

3. How does the mob say Hannah escaped them?

4. How are the accusations of witchcraft against Kit finally disproved?

5. Who does Nat say is the real witch of Blackbird Pond?

1. The passengers on the Dolphin think Kit might be a witch because she can swim. That is one of the marks of witches (that they float), and for a woman to swim is so uncommon that it is immediately suspect.

2. The citizens of Wethersfield actually have many reasons to think Hannah is a...

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