Study Guide

Ann Putnam in A Break With Charity

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Ann Putnam

Watch out Salem, Ann Putnam is about to shake things up witch-trial-style. And it's not going to be pretty. This girl is only twelve when she starts pretending to be possessed and accusing her neighbors of being witches. (True story, folks.)

In this book, Ann may be young, but she's got evil in the bag and the maniacal laugh to prove it. In fact, Susanna says Ann is basically as evil as it gets:

Now it was my turn to tremble. For what I was facing in this young girl was evil, pure and simple. I had heard of evil all my life, in Meeting, from ministers. I had heard people speak of it in casual terms. But never before I stood in that room that day with Ann Putnam did I feel its presence. I did then, and it was terrible to behold. (8.53)

Sheesh, Ann even has us shaking in our boots. Susanna doesn't question that Ann is evil as can be, so it's almost like there's no good in Ann whatsoever. And since she has fun sending a bunch of innocent townsfolk to their graves, Susanna might be onto something.

But by the end of the book, Ann has done a one-eighty. Or so she says. She begs the Salem congregation to forgive her (the real Ann Putnam did this in 1706, just like the Ann in the book), and tons of people do. Plus, Ann is now so sickly that even we're starting to feel sorry for her.

So what do you think? Is Ann truly sorry? And what do you make of this drastic change from Mistress of Evil to Contrite Lady?

The Afflicted Girls

There are oodles of afflicted girls in this book. These lasses like to pretend to be possessed by witches and then get a lot of folks in trouble, and we have to admit that there are so many girls pretending to be possessed that you'll probably lose count. We sure did.

Here's what we really hate about this gaggle of gals: they're famous. So when they enter the parsonage to name their tormenters, they're basically colonial times movie stars:

Then someone announced the girls.

They came in single file. A general murmur went through the room. (10.33-34)

These girls sure are putting on a show, and the audience totally eats it up. This posse spends all of its time naming innocent people as witches, and then they get treated like celebrities, which only makes these gals more powerful. They basically run the town and the judges do whatever they want. Now does that sound fair? We're thinking: no way.

The girls have so much power that even a few gents join in, like John Indian and John Dorich. But even with these dudes, the dudettes still run the show. Around town they're even known as the "afflicted girls." (Want to read up even more on gender in this book? Just check out the our thoughts on women and femininity in the "Themes" section and then join us back here.)

What do you think of the power these girls have? Is their power all bad or are there ways in which it's good?

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