Study Guide

Susanna English in A Break With Charity

By Ann Rinaldi

Susanna English

Susanna English knows how to be a leading lady colonial-America-style. She may be only fourteen when the Salem witch trials go down, but she sure knows how to act like a seriously grown-up gal. She faces tons of drama while she figures out a way to fight off evil Ann Putnam. And because she's our main gal, we get to go along for each and every ride.

Plus, Susanna English was actually a real lady back in the day. The English family had a few more kiddos in real-life Salem, but Susanna was definitely one of the children of Philip and Mary English. And she sure did go on to marry Johnathan Hathorne, too. They've even got some famous descendants, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, which is pretty cool.

So Susanna is a historically accurate lass in oodles of ways. But here's where the fictional part of historical fiction comes in: most of Susanna's tale about taking part in the witch trials is made-up. But gosh does she give us a good fictional look at the witch trials from the inside.

And that brings us to a big bonus: since Susanna is also our narrator, we get to hear everything that's going on inside of her head. Yep, we get to hear secrets that she's too afraid to tell her closest pals, and that's pretty cool. (We've got tons to say about Susanna's storytelling ways, so check out the "Narrator Point of View" section and come right back. You'll be happy you did.)

Scaredy Cat or Gallant Protector?

We're not gonna lie to you: Susanna spends a lot of this book scared out of her mind. (Don't be scared to go read more about being a wee bit frightened in our discussion of fear in the "Themes" section.) In some ways, we can't blame her. After all, Ann Putnam does threaten to call her family members witches if Susanna tells the truth, which would totally have us shaking in our boots. So even though Susanna knows that the afflicted girls are lying, she keeps her mouth shut until the end of the book.

If you ask Susanna, she thinks she's being a protective sis. Just take a look at how she decides not to tell Reverend Pike the truth:

I could not tell the truth about the girls in the circle until William safely returned. I must let the witch trials continue. Mary Bradbury must go to trial. Certainly she would be condemned. I could not take the chance and let her live. Or William might be destroyed. (20.129)

Susanna sure does put her brother's safety first. She doesn't want to put him in danger, and she's willing to risk Mary Bradbury's life to save her big bro. Whoa, that's a decision with major consequences. So what do you think? Is Susanna being protective for the right reasons? Or is she too scared?

But by the end of the book, Susanna throws away all her fears. She stands up for the accused witches even if it means she gets in trouble, and that makes her one brave teen. What do you think about this transition from being scared to courageous? And is Susanna still protective of her family when she decides to speak out?

A Gal Pal with Gusto

Susanna spends tons of time alone in this book—she's got a lot to think about with all this witch mayhem afoot—but when she does hang out with other folks, she's a seriously good chum.

So when Susanna moves in with the Putnams, she becomes a gal pal to Elizabeth and helps out around the house. Or when Abigail Hobbs is living in the woods, Susanna hunts her down for a heart-to-heart. And when Mary Warren is scared to speak out against the lying girls, Susanna holds her hand and tells her it'll all be okay.

Gosh, she even tells Ann Putnam that she forgives her for all the madness she caused during the witch trials:

"You forgive me, then? I am near death's door. The Devil has already picked my bones. I'll never have husband or children to hold close to me."

I feel something give inside me, like a great wall collapsing. And it comes to me that the hate I bore her all these years was more fearful than the person I was supposed to be hating. I can barely say the words. My heart is so full. "Yes, Ann, I forgive you." (Epilogue.52-53)

The truth is that Susanna is super skeptical about Ann, since she doesn't know if this once-evil lass is really sorry, but Susanna forgives Ann all the same. Sure she and Ann will never be BFFs, but Susanna can't help but be nice to her old rival. And that is seriously impressive.

What other ways is Susanna a great friend? Are there ways in which she's not such a good pal?