The Witch of Blackbird Pond

By Alex Denhart

Summary of the Book

Orphaned Kit is traveling from Barbados to Wethersfield in the Connecticut Colony to stay with her Aunt. Forever. On the Dolphin, the ship she is traveling on, she meets Nathaniel Eaton, the young charismatic first mate and John Holbrook, the studious religious student. She jumps off a small boat to rescue a doll for a girl named Prudence but Prudence's parents are horrified at her actions. She loves her aunt and cousins Mercy and Judith when she meets them but her stern, puritan uncle does not greet her as warmly. Kit wants to fit in with all the others in the community but unfortunately cannot. Everyone else does not like her because they think she is strange and unusual. She is surprised and bored at all the long sermons and meets people like William Ashby and Reverend Gershom Bulkeley there. William falls in love with her but Kit does not feel the same way. She never speaks her thoughts because she thinks that if she marries him, she’ll get out of work. She eventually proves herself useful by teaching at the dame school but causes problems with her unusual teaching methods. She runs to cry in the calming meadows and meets the old widow Hannah Tupper, who is an outcast because she's a Quaker. John is mistakenly thought to like Judith but really likes Mercy but goes along with it as to not break her heart. John also surprisingly leaves to join the army. Kit starts to teach Prudence secretly there with Hannah since her parents wouldn't let her go to the dame school. Suddenly, a terrible plague torments the town and Hannah is accused of witchcraft. Kit and Nat help her escape but are in more trouble when Kit herself is claimed to be a witch. With the help of Nat and Prudence, she's a lucky survivor of her trial and Goodwife Cruff is charged with slander. Kit reveals to William that she does not want to marry him. John comes back from the war and marries Mercy while Judith marries William. Nat eventually comes back with a new ship named the Witch and marries Kit.

The Salem Witch Trials

The Salem witch trials started in 1692 when a group of girls in Salem, Massachusetts claimed to be possessed by the devil. They then accused other women of being witches and using dark magic. The first convicted witch, Bridget Bishop, was hanged in June. Many more followed her. The belief that the devil gives witches power to harm people was already all over New England. Extra tensions like Native American attacks and smallpox epidemics added to resentment towards others. That summer was especially warm and the fungus ergot was found in rye, wheat, and other cereals. It is known to cause delusions and muscle spasms which may have been the cause of the trials. Finally in 1697, the Massachusetts General Court deemed the trials unlawful and leading justice Samuel Sewall apologized. An end was finally put to this awful but historic occurrence.

The Historical Critique of the Book

We’ve all probably heard of the Salem witch trials or maybe the Connecticut charter, but have we heard of the story of Kit Tyler? Though it may be mostly fiction, “The Witch of Blackbird Pond” by Elizabeth George Speare takes true events and puts them into an exciting read with authentic characters, realistic settings, and actual historical figures. Kit Tyler, the main character, is described as a determined, kind, and rebellious girl throughout the book. She is unlike the others and never quite gets used to their strict puritan ways. For example, in the book it says, “‘Why should you take it upon yourself to mend a roof for the Quaker women?’ demanded her uncle. ‘She lives all alone-’ began Kit. ‘She is a heretic, and she refuses to attend Meeting. She has no claim on your charity.’ ‘But someone ought to help her, Uncle Matthew.’” She shows her kindness and generosity towards others like here she is helping the old Quaker women Hannah even though her uncle disapproves which shows her rebelliousness. It also shows how determined she is to prove that Hannah is just a kind old women with no reason to hate upon. This shows how authentic the characters are. The settings also have a realistic feeling to them. The majority of the story takes place in Wethersfield of the Connecticut Colony, a small town of mostly or all puritans. For example, in the story it says, “Along with her pretty shoes, Kit’s spirits sank lower at each step. She had clutched at a hope that the dark fringe of dripping trees might somehow be concealing the town she had anticipated. But as they plodded along the dirt road past wide stumpy fields, her last hopes died. There was no fine town of Wethersfield. There was a mere settlement, far more lonely and dreary than Saybrook.” This excerpt shows how realistically the setting is described. From Kit’s point of view, Wethersfield is far past from what she expected, so far that it doesn’t even count as a town even more. This book also has actual historic figures like Sir Edmond Andros, Captain Samuel Talcott, Eleazer Kimberley, and Reverend Gersholm. They all had important roles with the Connecticut Charter. Sir Edmond Andros was the one who tried to take the charter for King James II. The rest were all important for keeping the charter safe. This shows that the author included actual historic figures in it.

Salem Witch Trials Video

We don't exactly know what caused the Salem witch trials. It's still very much a mystery but we have ideas. This video about the trials explains scientific theories as to what may have caused them like eating the fungus ergot.
History Channel: Salem Witch Trials