Study Guide

A Break With Charity Chapter 1

By Ann Rinaldi

Chapter 1

The Woman Who Wasn't There

  • So it's time to back this story up all the way to December of 1691. Our narrator is freezing in the snow and chatting with the town gossip, Sarah Bibber.
  • Sarah and the narrator are watching a bunch of girls head into Reverend Parris's parsonage.
  • This clique is being pretty sneaky, and they only visit while the reverend is gone. Looks like these gals aren't perfect Puritans. (Brief History Detour: The Puritans were a group of Protestant Christians that had some beef with the Church of England; some Puritans settled in Massachusetts, hoping to get a good dose of religious freedom. It's a common myth that the Puritans are the most prudish folks around, but that's not totally true—they were a pretty diverse group. And that brings us back to our regularly scheduled programming.)
  • So these girls are definitely breaking a few rules. But even with all this rule-breaking, you can bet that Goody Bibber and our narrator feel super left out.
  • To make matters worse, the newest member of this clique is the youngest yet: twelve-year-old Ann Putnam. Yep, this is the same Ann Putnam from the Prologue, so we know she's about to stir up trouble. But our fourteen-year-old narrator doesn't know that yet, and right now she's just a big ball of jealousy.
  • Our narrator hates Ann and her whole family, especially Ann's mom (also named Ann). (Fair warning, Shmoopers, there are a lot of repeat names in this book—mothers and daughters often end up with the same name, and it can get a bit confusing. But have no fear, we'll sort out all the characters for you along the way.) The only Putnams that our narrator likes are Ann's Uncle Joseph and Aunt Elizabeth, who are pretty cool.
  • Sarah Bibber figures that our narrator is standing outside the parsonage because of her older bro, William. He's basically a colonial times baller who travels all over the world on their dad's ship called the William and Susanna. But they haven't heard from Will in awhile, and our narrator's family is super nervous he's had a run in with pirates. Yikes.
  • So Sarah explains her theory: the Reverend Parris bought a slave named Tituba. And she's known for being able to tell fortunes and do magic. (By the way, magic was a major no-no for Puritans in the 1690s. It was basically considered having dealings with the devil.) So Sarah figures that's what the clique is doing with Tituba while the reverend is out… and that the narrator wants to join in to get some prophecies about her big bro.
  • The narrator is pretty shocked by this news. Now she's got two reasons to be part of the group: she wants to be included, plus she wants to know the future.
  • When Sarah asks why she doesn't just join the clique in the reverend's house, the narrator says that it all comes down to class differences. Our narrator is an upper class lass who lives in town in a huge house maintained by servants, but the rest of the girls in the clique live in the village, where the folks are generally poorer.
  • The only reason the narrator is even in the village is because her mom wants her to bring goods to the poor. Well clearly she's been neglecting her job.
  • Sarah says she has a way for the narrator to get inside: just ask Tituba's husband, a chap named John Indian. Our narrator figures this'll work, since her family is such an important one.
  • And talking about her family means we get to learn some important things about our narrator:
  • Thing One: Our narrator's name is Susanna English. Finally—a name.
  • Thing Two: Susanna's dad is an Episcopalian. Yep, he's not a Puritan like the rest of the town. He actually goes to a different town to attend a different church, which back in the day was a super big deal.
  • Thing Three: Susanna's papa is a pretty successful merchant and an all-around reasonable chap who doesn't take stock in Puritan superstitions about the devil.
  • So since Susanna's dad doesn't like the town talk about magic and the devil, she knows he wouldn't want her talking to Tituba. But Susanna doesn't care a fig about that. She wants to know about her big bro, and if that means lying to her parents, then so be it.

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