Study Guide

A Break With Charity Community

By Ann Rinaldi

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Chapter 1

I peered through the naked trees and bushes, toward the house. The girls had gone inside now, and, as always, I was standing alone in the bone-numbing dusk. Candles were lighted and shining in the windows. The girls would all be warm and safe, sitting around the fire, I thought. Listening to Tituba's stories. And I was out here, alone and friendless, in the bleakness of the early December landscape. And the colder for the knowledge that they did not want me than I was from the bite of the wind. (1.3)

Susanna sure is feeling left out. This girl is looking for community and she thinks it sounds pretty swell. Did you notice the huge difference between how she describes the clique of girls in the parsonage and how she describes herself? She says she's "alone" and freezing multiple times, but the girls in the parsonage are "warm and safe." Sounds like Susanna is looking to join the popular group and she thinks it's going to be all peachy keen once she's there. But we've got a feeling she's looking for community in all the wrong places.

Chapter 6

"Living as I do, I see and cannot be seen. Outside people's houses at night, I hear their sobbing, their cries, their voices raised in argument. One summer's evening, I came upon two people in the wood. They were naked and frolicking." (6.52)

Abigail Hobbs is in a pretty unique position. She's like the ultimate eavesdropper, and she gets a secret window into the community of Salem… but she does not like what she sees. While the community might look happy on the outside, she knows that inside there's a ton of drama. And not the good kind.

Father got up from his chair and began to pace. "I have always been of the mind that people's affairs are their own," he said. "But that is an Anglican belief. The Puritan community sees people's private affairs as belonging to the community. You will want to find your daughter before the authorities do." (6.18)

Papa English knows that the Puritans in Salem take the idea of community to the next level. For the Puritans, not much is private, and instead they take everything into consideration for the good of the whole neighborhood. This means that when the Hobbs's daughter, Abigail, is hiding in the woods, her parents better move fast before the community takes over. Sheesh, this sounds like a pretty meddlesome business to us.

Chapter 8

"But also, we couldn't abandon Abigail and Betty. They didn't have the sense to carry this matter through and not be discovered. They needed our advice. So we met with them and told them that they must outwit the elders or we would all be terribly punished. We swore fidelity to one another."

"And will keep that fidelity?"

"There is no going back now. The die is cast. We are bound together, and we will stay together and give succor to each other until the end." (8.42-44)

This little clique starts because Ann is super manipulative. But the afflicted girls end up forming a tight community, and Ann makes a pretty persuasive little leader. Did you notice how she talks about these girls as if they have a super close bond? She says they will be loyal to one another and are "bound together." We don't like this little community that Ann has created, but we've got to admit: the girl knows how to lead a clique.

Chapter 9

I went home thinking that everyone in Salem was most likely choosing sides in the witchcraft business, the same as John Dorich. I felt sad, for the community was torn apart already by old quarrels, and now it would be even more disrupted. (9.89).

Salem is crumbling right before our eyes, folks. The way Susanna sees it, there are two sides in this community: Team Ann Putnam (a.k.a. the folks who think witches are real) and Team Ann is Crazy (a.k.a. the folks who know witches are bogus). And having these two sides isn't an easy ride for this town. Keep an eye out for how these two teams interact as the book goes on. Are there ways in which these sides don't interact at all?

"Is there trouble, Joseph?" Mama was never one to shilly-shally about things.

"I feel the hysteria connected with this witch business will get worse before it abates. It is fed on distrust in our community, on old quarrels between neighbors."

"Then it is well fed before it starts," Mama said. (9.10-12)

The neighbor squabbles in Salem go way back, so when it comes to breaking up the community over the witches, there's a strong foundation of, well, hate. All that talk of loving each other in the community is just that: talk. Instead, it looks like neighbors will be fighting neighbors pretty soon. What do you think of this aspect of community? Can the Salem neighbors avoid all these fights and just learn to get along?

Chapter 13

"I fear the other girls in the circle will make a mockery of me when I testify," Mary confided. She sat in the chair and broke into weeping.

I went to put my arm around her. She gripped my hand. "They are evil," she said. They can make evil happen. And the magistrates choose to believe them over innocent people. I want to tell the truth, oh, I do! But they have sworn no one will break free of the circle, that if anyone tries she will suffer for it. I am so afraid." (13.25-26)

The lying circle of girls have made a pact: they're sticking together no matter what. So when Mary Warren breaks loose, you can bet Ann Putnam isn't happy. The community created by this little clique is a pretty nasty one, built on a potent combination of fear and loyalty.

Chapter 17
Elizabeth Putnam

"Sometimes I think," Elizabeth said, "that those named as witches are always just a bit different from others."

Joseph nodded. "It would seem as such. It's as if the afflicted girls are being given instructions on whom to name to cleanse this society of dissenters." (17.39-40)

Being a "dissenter" means that you have different views than most people in a community, and in Salem being a dissenter means that you're not Puritan. So since Susanna's dad goes to an Episcopal church, he's a big-time dissenter. So is Abigail Hobbs, since she defies all the rules and lives in the woods. Looks like Ann Putnam is trying to make Salem full of super similar folks. And if you ask us, that'll get really boring really fast.

Chapter 21

"I wish I could run from this place, Johnathan," I said. "And never have to do with this witch madness again."

"We can't. We who know better must take a stand for what is right. And bring our community together again." (21.66-67)

Salem is in dire straits, and Johnathan knows that folks like himself and Susanna have a duty to stick with their community. It's actually pretty cool that even though things are bad, Johnathan is still an optimist. What do you think of Johnathan's attitude? Do you think Susanna shares this belief in supporting community over everything? How so?


"Let us now diminish the power of those evil angels. Let us send them back, for all time, from whence they came. Will ye not do this with me here today? Will ye not soften your hearts now to this young woman who has thrown herself upon your mercy? Will ye not heal the wounds of this community for all time, for yourselves and for your children, by forgiving her sin?" (Epilogue.43)

It's 1706 and the Salem community has definitely been through some rough patches. Like that whole witch hullaballoo. But now the new guy in town, Reverend Green, wants to bring the community back together, and he knows that forgiving Ann is the way to do it. By the end of the book, do you feel like the Salem community has come back together?

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