Study Guide

A Break With Charity Fear

By Ann Rinaldi

Fear

Prologue

I stand as guilty as they. For I knew better and did not step forth to try to stop the madness. Certainly not in any manner that counted. I held back, afraid. (Prologue.18)

When Susanna looks back at her teenage self, she sees a scared little girl. She got caught up in the witch mayhem and she was too frightened to do anything about it—in fact, Susanna spends a lot of this book feeling afraid. So keep an eye out for any times you see Susanna shivering in her boots. Or maybe even when she puts on her brave face.

Chapter 7

And the thought came to me, like the sun through the window.

Little Betty was tormented with fear of her father discovering their doings. Perhaps he had already discovered what they were about. And to throw a mantle of protection over themselves, the other girls were mimicking Betty's condition. (7.40-41)

Early on, Susanna has a theory about why the secret circle is acting afflicted—she figures that it's all about fear. You see, Betty is the first one to get spooked by Tituba's spells, and now she's afraid that her dad will find out. So this means that fear is all over these witch trials from the beginning, whether it's little Betty in the parsonage or Susanna out in the woods. And this has us wondering if these characters can find a way to be courageous instead.

Chapter 8

And I knew in my bones, in that moment, that what went on in these study walls would soon disrupt our whole way of life in Salem. And I was powerless to do anything about it. I felt myself go limp with fear. "I must go now," I said to Ann Putnam.

"Do go. And remember what I said this day. And thank you for the apple tarts." Her evil laughter followed me out of the room. (8.61-62)

When Ann tells Susanna that she's going to call innocent people witches, you can bet that our girl is scared silly. Did you notice how all of Susanna's fearful feelings are super physical? She even feels "limp" and "powerless" after chatting with Ann—looks like Ann knows how to make Susanna scared right down to her core.

Chapter 10

And, oh, the anger flowed through me like a river then. I wanted to run into the room and scream out to all of them that she was lying and what she had told me. I made a move in the kitchen doorway, a gesture of helplessness. And Ann Putnam saw me. She turned slightly and looked across heads to me, just long enough to smile, then she turned away.

But in that smile was all the evil that could exist in God's good sunlight. I felt the energy of it directed at me. And I fell back in silence and in fear. (10.51-52)

When it's time for the afflicted girls to name the witches, Susanna really wants to speak up, and she even imagines just how she'll do it. But Ann's got a powerful grasp on our gal Sus and she's not letting go anytime soon. Even Ann's smile makes Susanna go weak in the knees. Sheesh, that girl is a spooky one.

Chapter 12

"I honor my father, Susanna. But I tremble to see him denouncing our friends and neighbors. We'll not have a friend left when this business is done. I told him so, and we argued fiercely. I am afraid a rift is coming between us that will never heal."

"I can't do anything about the rift between you and your father, Johnathan," I said. "But you'll have me for a friend. Always." (12.52-53)

Even for the kid of a town judge, the witch trials still cause a lot of fear, though for slightly different reasons. When it comes to Johnathan Hathorne, he's afraid that he's going to lose his dad. Have you noticed that we've got a few dads who are feared in this book? We've got Betty's dad, Reverend Parris, and now we've got Magistrate Hathorne, too. Do you think there are moms that inspire this much fear, too?

"They moved away from her and left her alone in her pew. I could not bear it, so I bade Mary stay in our pew and went to sit beside her. I held her hand. She was trembling."

[…]

"Oh, Philip." And she ran to him crying. "I am a friend of witches."

He held her in his arms while she blurted out her story again.

"You are the only true Christian amongst them," he pronounced. "Mary, I am prouder of you this day than I have ever been. (12.72, 77-79)

Salem might be full of scared folks—Susanna included—but once in awhile someone is super brave, like Mrs. English. She doesn't just oppose the witch hullaballoo in her own home, she also takes a stand in church. And that makes Papa English pretty proud. Us too, Papa E, us too.

"I honor my father, Susanna. But I tremble to see him denouncing our friends and neighbors. We'll not have a friend left when this business is done. I told him so, and we argued fiercely. I am afraid a rift is coming between us that will never heal."

"I can't do anything about the rift between you and your father, Johnathan," I said. "But you'll have me for a friend. Always." (12.52-53)

Even for the kid of a town judge, the witch trials still cause a lot of fear, though for slightly different reasons. When it comes to Johnathan Hathorne, he's afraid that he's going to lose his dad. Have you noticed that we've got a few dads who are feared in this book? We've got Betty's dad, Reverend Parris, and now we've got Magistrate Hathorne, too. Do you think there are moms that inspire this much fear, too?

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)

Mary Warren wants to speak out against the circle of lying girls. There's just one problem: she's scared out of her mind. We know what Ann Putnam is willing to do to get her way, and so does Mary. What do you think she's afraid of? Is she afraid of "mockery," or does it go even deeper?

Chapter 16

Joseph sobered. "I don't think for one God-given moment that Gedney believed the charges. But the others did, and he gave in to them. Alden was taken away, calling the girls liars. He posted bail and is in his own home under guard."

"He is a brave man," said Elizabeth. "But bravery does naught in that court." (16.44-45)

The newest so-called witch is a chap named Alden. And he's staring his accusers in the face with some serious bravery. But there's someone else here who isn't so courageous: the judge Bartholomew Gedney, who doesn't stand up for Alden, even though he knows the guy is innocent. Take a look at how he just "gave in." Something sure is keeping folks from being more courageous in this town.

Chapter 19

"You knew I was working with people like Reverend Wise of Ipswich and Reverend Hale of Beverly. And Reverend Dane of Andover. You knew of John Proctor's petition begging for his life and the lives of others. You knew of John Alden, who comes from one of New England's foremost families, imprisoned in his own home. And you said nothing."

"I was afraid, Joseph," I said tremulously.

"Do you fancy we are not? Do you think John Proctor is not afraid? Yet he stands up to them. Did you not think Rebecca Nurse was afraid when she went to the gallows? Yet she acted with dignity and faith, even when they put the noose around her neck. She refused to confess to witchcraft, though those who confess are not hanged and those who do confess are not hanged and those who do not confess are." (19.75-77)

When Susanna finally tells Joseph what she knows about Ann and the lying girls, he's upset—even though Susanna was super scared to tell the truth, Joseph still thinks she should've spoken up sooner. There have been oodles of town folks who have shown lots of bravery, and now Susanna needs to learn to be more like John Proctor and Rebecca Nurse. Do you think she does this by the end of the book?

"And when that time comes, Susanna, you must agree to come with me and tell what you know. Will you do that?"

"Yes, Joseph."

"I will stand by you. You must not be afraid. This is a brave land, Susanna, founded by brave people who never shrank from their duty or their vision of freedom. But this land has a future only if each of us stands up for what is right when it is given us to do so." (19.94-96)

There sure is a lot of fear in Salem, but there's a good chunk of bravery too. Joseph knows that Massachusetts is full of courage deep down, and now Susanna is ready to be one of those brave folk. It's about time.

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