Read Tituba, Reluctant Witch of Salem by Elaine G. Breslaw Online


With this important book, Elaine G. Breslaw has "found" Tituba, the elusive, mysterious, and often mythologized Indian woman accused of witchcraft in Salem in 1692 and immortalized in Arthur Miller's The Crucible. Reconstructing the life of the slave woman at the center of the notorious Salem witch trials, the book traces Tituba from her likely origins in South America toWith this important book, Elaine G. Breslaw has "found" Tituba, the elusive, mysterious, and often mythologized Indian woman accused of witchcraft in Salem in 1692 and immortalized in Arthur Miller's The Crucible. Reconstructing the life of the slave woman at the center of the notorious Salem witch trials, the book traces Tituba from her likely origins in South America to Barbados, forcefully dispelling the commonly held belief that Tituba was African. The uniquely multicultural nature of life on a seventeenth-century Barbadan sugar plantation - defined by a mixture of English, American Indian, and African ways and folklore - indelibly shaped the young Tituba's world and the mental images she brought with her to Massachusetts. By dividing her biography into two parts, one focusing on Tituba's roots in Barbados, the other on her life in Massachusetts, Breslaw emphasizes the inextricably linked worlds of the Caribbean and the North American colonies, illustrating how the Puritan worldview was influenced by its perception of possessed Indians. Tituba's confession, Breslaw argues, clearly reveals Tituba's savvy and determined efforts to protect herself by actively manipulating Puritan fears. This confession, perceived as evidence of a diabolical conspiracy, was the central agent in the cataclysmic series of events that saw nineteen people executed and over 150 imprisoned, including a young girl of five....

Title : Tituba, Reluctant Witch of Salem
Author :
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ISBN : 9780814713075
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 270 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Tituba, Reluctant Witch of Salem Reviews

  • Katherine Addison
    2018-12-31 03:39

    The first half of this book, in which Breslaw traces Tituba's probable early life, is quite good. She explains very clearly the speculative leap she's making in assuming that the slave Tattuba listed in the inventory of a Barbados plantation is the same as the slave Tituba Samuel Parris brought to Salem Village, and she not only convinced me that the leap was justified, she demonstrated that even if Tituba and Tattuba were not the same person, the reconstruction Breslaw managed of Tattuba's life was still worthwhile, in that it illuminated a great deal about what Tituba's experiences would have been like.Then we hit 1692, and the thing just fell apart. Breslaw has the Salem historian's disease, in which the one cause on which the historian has focused is proclaimed to be the ONLY cause. In Breslaw's case, she asserts that the reason the Salem witchcraft crisis exploded in the way it did, mushrooming to nineteen executions and well over one hundred arrests, the only important reason is Tituba's testimony. Even without the other problems (which I'll get to in a moment), I would disagree with this thesis; I think the crucial moment is when the adult authority figures asked the afflicted girls who had bewitched them and accepted their answers as unquestionable truth. I also think that moment has a tremendously complicated genesis of its own, as well as very complicated consequences. And I would certainly agree that Tituba's testimony encouraged the spread of suspicion. But she didn't cause it, and she certainly didn't create the ground-breaking paradigm of social upheaval that Breslaw claims.So I disagree with the argument. But I also find that the argument is very shoddily put together. She talks a great deal about the impact of the story Tituba told, the importance of the words she used, and the ways in which her testimony was repeated, embroidered, and modified by the afflicted girls and the confessing witches, but she uses almost no direct quotes. It's all described in indirect discourse. The generalizations are breathtaking in their sweep, particularly in discussing the culture of "American Indians." She makes no effort to distinguish between the Arawak Indians of South America (Tituba's probable tribe)--whose folklore and beliefs she claims influenced Tituba's testimony--and the Indians of north-eastern North America (unlike with the Arawak, she never specifies which tribes are under discussion) whom the European settlers were intermittently at war with throughout the second half of the seventeenth century--whose folklore and beliefs she claims influenced the magistrates' reception of Tituba's testimony; I find it hard to believe that "American Indians" in her argument are anything more than a locum tenens for ... well, for something that Breslaw hasn't done enough work on.And Breslaw is particularly inconsistent on the historians' bugbear (which I blogged about): the nature of the participants' belief in witchcraft. She assumes that the nightmares Tituba describes in her testimony are real, and that she made the witchcake in a sincere effort to help Betty Parris. But she also assumes that Tituba deliberately and consciously tailored her testimony to give the magistrates what they wanted to hear, and that she equally deliberately constructed it as a subversive and subtle attack on her master, Samuel Parris. She also insists on describing it is a "model for resistance" (180). And when she talks about the confessing witches using Tituba's testimony, it is always as if they were in conscious control of a sophisticated strategy of resistance. I will give one example:Tituba's unidentified evil presence, the imputations of elite responsibility, a witches' meeting, and assorted strange creatures provided a forum for the exposure of discontent with Puritan theology and ministerial intellectual demands; with the social class system and degradation of servants; and above all with the traditions of the late medieval world that valued communal goals above individual efforts. Tituba may have omitted sexual references because Indian cultures never made the erotic side of human behavior a factor in witchcraft prceedings. Others followed her lead for different reasons--sexual exploits might have negated their intent to parody Puritan values by conflating the godly and demonic realms. In this technique, as in others, Tituba again had supplied the outlines of a method that could be embellished and reformulated to fit the mental baggage of other cultures. (Breslaw 155)She assumes "resistance" to be behind all the confessions (though, oddly, she doesn't spend much time applying the idea to the afflicted girls, where I think it can be more plausibly deployed--although still with much more caution than Breslaw shows), without ever acknowledging that as a method of resistance, confessing to witchcraft is a dismal failure, and without doing any of the work necessary to show how her modern, theoretical concept of "resistance" actually applies to the lives and words of her subjects. And she consistently makes assertions about Tituba's motivations that she does not prove--and couldn't prove if she tried. Unlike with the identification of Tituba and Tattuba in the first half of the book, these speculative assertions are not defensible either historiographically or rhetorically. Like Srebnick (The Mysterious Death of Mary Rogers: Sex and Culture in Nineteenth-Century New York) Breslaw overstates the importance of her central figure, and like Srebnick, rather than supporting her grandiose argument with evidence and careful reasoning, she supports it with buzzwords and academic obfuscation.What really irks me about this book is that it could have been so much better. Not just in the general sense in which a poorly written book can always be a better book, but quite specifically. Mary Beth Norton's In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692 has some excellent and provocative work on a subject one could encapsulate by Breslaw's subtitle: Devilish Indians and Puritan Fantasies; Norton's work makes clear that the Puritan construction of Indians, particularly in relation to the Devil, probably did have a profound influence on the Salem crisis, and that is a topic that I think could and should be written about more--and should include Tituba. But Breslaw, while she mentions various facets of Puritan beliefs about Indians, doesn't examine them carefully, or make any sustained or persuasive effort to show, at the nuts and bolts level, how those beliefs influenced what happened at Salem.So half of this is a good book and half of it is a mess. Unfortunately, the good half, while good, isn't great, and the mess is really kind of awful. Unless you're a Salem-completist like me, I can't recommend this one.

  • Susanne
    2019-01-18 11:50

    First time I've read this theory: Tituba named others *purposefully* as an act of resistance against The Man.Usually it's "she did it in self-defense" or "she didn't know what she was doing". This portrays it more in the vein of a captured Allied pilot giving disinformation to the Nazis in order to bring them down.The author does a marvelous job uncovering Tituba's PRE-Salem history. If you didn't already know that Tituba was an INDIAN slave - not African - you *must* read this book. And if you're at all interested in the Salem witch trials, this book adds a layer of knowledge which will make your research even more delicious.Hmmm... Never write book reviews before lunch....

  • Eden
    2019-01-06 10:35

    Tituba is a slave known for being at the center of the Salem witch trials. What this book does is trace Tituba's pre-Salem life, from her likely origins in South America to her time in Barbados, and also shows what impact her confession had on Salem and Puritans as a whole.This book also dispels that Tituba was African. She was clearly identified as Indian in documents during court and before.Although the book isn't extremely long, it is a lot of information to take in. I also felt that it was very well researched. I have read a lot about the Salem witch trials, Tituba, and her involvement is always mentioned. But this book really goes in depth and I really like the author wrote this book about Tituba. I have always wanted to know more about her, but there is only so much books on Salem tell you. If you wish to know more about Tituba, I definitely recommend this book.

  • Julia
    2018-12-29 11:51

    I read this in a class on witchcraft taught by the Author. The Salem witch trials political motivatations gave me a greater appreciation for the Miller play and its subtle(?) portrayal of McCarthism as well as a clue in on a very interesting peice of American history.

  • Edwina Callan
    2019-01-05 05:44

    Very well researched history of Tituba the INDIAN slave, not African as many falsely assume, who was at the center of the Salem Witch hysteria of February 1692 thru May 1693, in colonial Massachusetts.

  • Connie Bloch
    2019-01-21 04:33

    This is a good history book but sometimes a little boring. Great background information on Tituba and good theories about how influential Tituba was to the hysteria and fear of witchcraft.

  • Katherine
    2018-12-26 10:36

    The most readable evidence I have read for a History course at Smith so far.

  • Ying
    2019-01-08 06:46

    Elaine Breslaw is soliciting a confession from Tituba and the archives the same way the trials did.

  • Jody
    2018-12-30 08:02

    read this for a college course