Study Guide

The Witch of Blackbird Pond Justice and Judgment

By Elizabeth George Speare

Justice and Judgment

“Justice! What do you young men know about rights and justice? A soft life is all you have ever known. Have you felled trees in a wilderness and built a home with your bare hands? Have you fought off the wolves and the Indians? Have you frozen and starved through a single winter? The men who made this town understand justice. They knew better than to look for it in the King’s favor. The only rights worth all that toil and sacrifice are the rights of free men, free and equal under God to decide their own justice. You’ll learn. Mark my words, some day you’ll learn to your sorrow!” (7.23)

Uncle Matthew quarrels with William Ashby and John Holbrook over the subject of Connecticut’s charter. The hardworking Matthew scoffs at the younger men’s submission to the king. Matthew argues for freedom, equality, and justice for all men.

Kit looked back at the gray figure bent over a kettle, stirring something with a long stick. Her spine prickled. It might be only soap, of course. She’d stirred a kettle herself just yesterday; goodness knows her arms still ached from it. But that lonely figure in the ragged flapping shawl – it was easy enough to imagine any sort of mysterious brew in that pot! She quickened her step to catch up with Judith. (8.18)

The Widow Tupper is completely isolated from Puritan society, living alone by Blackbird Pond. Notice how her isolation makes her an easy target. From a distance, Kit finds it easy to imagine that the woman is indeed a witch.

“Quakers cause trouble wherever they go. They speak out against our faith. Of course, we don’t torment them here in Connecticut. In Boston I’ve heard they even hanged some Quakers. This Hannah Tupper and her husband was branded and driven out of Massachusetts. They were thankful enough just to be let alone here in Wethersfield.” (10.18)

Quakers become social outcasts and are isolated.

“Why should you take it upon yourself to mend a roof for the Quaker woman?” demanded her uncle.

“She lives all alone-” began Kit.

“She is a heretic, and she refused to attend Meeting. She has no claim on your charity.” (12.66-68)

According to Uncle Matthew, Hannah’s religion leaves her isolated, with no claims to Kit’s charity.

<em>That for stealing pumpkins from a field, and for kindling a fire in a dwelling they three shall be seated in the stocks from one hour before the Lecture till one hour after. That they shall pay a fine of forty shillings each, and they be forbidden hereafter, on certainty of thirty lashes at the whipping post, to enter the boundaries of the township of Wethersfield.</em> (16.31)

Is this punishment fair? Why is Nat’s offense worthy of banishment?

“My house!” cried out Hannah, so heedlessly that Kit clapped a hand over her mouth. “Our own house that Thomas built!” With the tears running down her own cheeks, Kit flung both arms around the trembling woman, and together they huddled against the log and watched till the red glow lessened and died away. (17.88)

Hannah is an easy target and becomes the scapegoat for the fever in the town. Why do the townspeople believe they should burn her house?

There was no one, no one in the whole room, save her uncle, who would speak a word in her defense. William had not come. (19.10)

Why will no one defend Kit during her trial? Why will William not speak up for her?

“There seems to be no evidence of witchcraft,” he announced, when order had been restored. “The girl has admitted her wrong in encouraging a child to willful disobedience. Beyond that I cannot see that there is any reasonable charge against her. I pronounce that Mistress Katherine Tyler is free and innocent.” (19.128)

Is justice done in this case? Who does not get justice? What happens to Hannah? Do we ever see justice for the way in which she is treated?

“The lad risked the penalty to see justice done. I suggest you remit the sentence.”

Nat risked his neck just to see that the right thing was done. He could have looked out only for himself, but instead he violated his banishment in order to return and help secure justice for Kit.

“We’re judged by the company we keep. And in our position people look to us for an example of what is right and proper.”

“And I’m to set an example by turning my back on my friends?” Kit’s eyes glittered. (20.30-31)

William Ashby and Kit’s judgment differs when it comes to who to be friends with.

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