Study Guide

A Break With Charity Setting

By Ann Rinaldi

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Salem, Massachusetts

If you're on the hunt for a creepy little town back in 1692, we've got just the place for you: Salem, Massachusetts.

Here's the thing: in many ways, Salem is just another colonial town. You've got your shops selling tallow and bed warmers; you've got your rich merchants and your apprentices who work at the wharf. Throw in a few horses, a parsonage, a meetinghouse (a.k.a. a church), and you've got a pretty sweet picture of a colonial village.

And get this: all these town details are super accurate. Salem was a real town in colonial Massachusetts, Mrs. English really had a shop there, and there was even a tavern called Ingersoll's Ordinary where the afflicted girls would act possessed, just like in the book. No one knows exactly what made the afflicted girls go into fits and accuse witches, but historians do know what the town of Salem was like. And in A Break with Charity, Rinaldi sticks us in a time machine with a seriously accurate setting.

Okay, so the colonial town is super historical and super creepy. But there's just something extra that makes Salem a wee bit spooky. Oh right, it's those pesky witch trials, complete with trees for hanging so-called witches. So it's no surprise that when Susanna is out at night in her hometown, she's pretty freaked out by her surroundings:

Even the night breezes seemed fraught with foreboding. The landscape all around Salem had become melancholy. And as Joseph's mare pulled the wagon swiftly over familiar paths, I felt as if we were all incarnated out of that melancholy, as if we were all part of it. (17.62)

Yikes, this is giving us the heebie-jeebies. And this town isn't just spooky, it's sad too. Did you notice how Susanna describes the "melancholy"? She says it's "as if we were all part of it," which has us thinking that everything in this town is dark and brooding these days.

And for more spooky deets on what cell-phone-less times were like in Salem back in 1692, swing on over to our Salem witch trials guide.

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