The novel tells the story of Tituba, a slave who was also a witch who became involved in the Salem witch trials of 1692. An accident occurs both at the beginning and end of the novel. The book is divided into three parts. Tituba, the writer, starts by describing her life in Barbados and her trip to New England. Second, she describes her encounters in Salem, Massachusetts, where she was branded a witch. Third, she recounts her return to Barbados, where she was assassinated as an anarchist. In this respect, Maryse Condé wrote the novel. She was a teacher for over eight years of her adult life, and she taught in Africa before settling in Paris. She also taught in numerous universities before she retired from Columbia University in 2004. She also worked for the British Broadcasting Company between 1968 and 1970. Condé was fascinated by the political changes that were occurring in Africa at the time, and she focused on the effects of the political upheavals on the citizens. She married Richard Philcox after her divorce from Mamadou Condé. Richard Philcox translated most of her books to English. In particular, the major themes of the I, Tituba are sexism, racism, identity, and belief. More importantly, the paper will discuss the themes as they resonate throughout the book. Tituba was a black slave living under colonialism who was invisible because of the color of her skin, gender, and social status.
The novel tells the true story of a West Indian slave who was arrested during the witch hunt of Salem in 1692 and forgotten until the witches were given amnesty after two years. Tituba is the protagonist and the narrator of the story. The author makes up a fictional childhood, adolescence and old age for Tituba because not much has been written about her. Maryse Condé acts like a historian in the Tituba narrative. She reinterprets Tituba as she is portrayed by history and she indicates the problems associated with history in Tituba’s narrative that serves a political or artistic agenda. Tituba tells her own story despite the fact that historically, very little is known about her. The structure of the book fits the themes of belief, gender, racism, and sexism and Condé portray Tituba in the direct opposite of history’s representation.
For the best part of the novel, Condé concentrates on the life of Tituba. She redefines her as a heroine. Conde had no historical facts about the life of Tituba, and so she introduces new characters to give Tituba a life of her own. Most of these characters are exaggerated to emphasize the themes of the book. Tituba is warm and humane. She posses love, compassion and she is gentle. In whichever community she lives in, she uses her healing power to help the people and not for her gain (Condé, 1992). Moreover, she upholds ethics as one of the Puritan women requests her to put a spell on one of the neighbors. After being freed from jail, she does not take revenge and does not accuse others falsely when she is asked to identify other witches. Her loving nature is expressed in her sexuality and appreciation for life. However, her loving character is betrayed when her relationships with John Indian and Christopher end in betrayal and abandonment. Nonetheless, she forgives them and life continues.
Subsequently, the two major themes in the novel are racism and sexism. In the beginning, the author introduces Adena; Tituba’s mother on a ship called Christ the king. A sailor rapes her and Tituba is the product of the rape. Her mother is sold off to the highest bidder. Adena is killed when she turns down the advances of a white man. As Tituba grows up, she also experiences discrimination from other slaves (Condé, 1992). Once Tituba is accused of witchcraft, John Indian abandons her. Tituba is a victim of sexism and racism, and the novel is about how she fights off these two evils. After she dies, she proceeds to fight for the rights of slaves together with her mother and Mama Yaya. The author resolves the issue of sexism and racism by portraying Tituba as a heroine.
The accounts of the witches of Salem had been written by white males who disregarded Tituba because of the color of her skin, and Condé gives her voice by retelling her story in the book. The enduring power of love is feminine. The book revolves around revolves around four women who are part of a transcendent spiritual community. The male culture has dominated over women in the book and is the cause of havoc in the society. Being female, Tituba helps in guiding the cruelty in men on a level that is spiritual and emotional which men cannot experience because they are lost in the blindness of their violence.
In summary, the novel is a narration of a West Indian slave who lived during the 1692 witch hunt named Tituba. It is based on a true story, but there is little historical evidence about Tituba and Conde results to her imagination to recreate the protagonist’s life. Tituba is loving, gentle, warm, compassionate, and humane. Her lifetime mission is to fight against sexism and racism. In brief, I like the book because it is entertaining and it depicts a side of history that has barely been touched because of the lack of evidence. Besides, it acknowledges the role that the slaves of the time played during the witch hunt of Salem which is barely recorded in history.
Condé, M. (1992). I, Tituba, black witch of Salem. New York: One World/Ballantine.