Study Guide

The Witch of Blackbird Pond Marriage

By Elizabeth George Speare


“Her name is Rachel, and she was charming and gay, and they said she could have her pick of any man in her father’s regiment. But instead she fell in love with a Puritan and ran away to America without her father’s blessing. She wrote to my mother from Wethersfield, and she has written a letter to me every year of my life.” (2.24)

The marriage between Rachel and her husband was based, as Kit tells us, on love above all else. Rachel defied the wishes of her father to be with Matthew.

“I had to come, Mercy. There was another reason. I couldn’t say it this morning, but there was a man of the island, a friend of grandfather’s. He used to come often, and afterwards I found he had lent Grandfather money, hundreds of pounds. He didn’t want the money back – he wanted me to marry him. He tried to make me think that Grandfather had wanted it, but I’m sure that was not so. He wanted to pay everything. He would even have kept the house for us to live in. Everyone expected me to marry him. The women kept telling me what a wonderful match it was.” (4.77)

Here Kit reveals to Mercy that one of the reasons she left Barbados was that a man of her grandfather’s acquaintance had tried to coerce her into marrying him. For Kit, marriage is not purely an economic arrangement.

“William said he was starting to build his house, didn’t he? What more could you want him to say?” (7.32)

In this exchange with Judith, Kit learns that by simply mentioning his house, William is expressing his intentions of marrying her. Kit’s ideas about marriage, though, are quite different. She believes they should have something in common – and be able to hold a conversation (which they, of course, can’t).

Kit had known that William was only waiting a propitious time to speak. She had long since decided what her answer would be. As William’s wife she could come and go as she pleased. There would be no more endless drudgery, and she could snap her fingers at a woman like Goodwife Cruff. Besides, William admired her. In spite of the fact that he was often bewildered and scandalized, he was still as infatuated as he had been that first Sabbath morning. Then why did Judith’s teasing always raise this cold little lump of foreboding? (13.19)

Though Kit has decided she will marry William, her heart doesn’t seem to be in it. Why not? How does her decision to marry William go against her earlier ideas about love and marriage?

As if he had heard her, John opened his white lips and made a hoarse sound. “Sir- I-” he attempted. Then, still incredulous, he looked back at Judith. Every trace of pride and haughtiness was wiped from her face. Such utter happiness and trust shone from those blue eyes that John faltered, and in that moment of hesitation he was lost. (13.79)

John intends to propose to Mercy but Judith strong-arms the situation. Through a misunderstanding, John is accidentally engaged not to Mercy but to Judith. Oops. Why doesn’t John object or speak up?

“Does thee love him?”

“How can I tell, Hannah? He is good, and he’s fond of me. Besides,” Kit’s voice was pleading, “If I don’t marry him, how shall I ever escape from my uncle’s house?”

“Bless thee, child!” said Hannah softly. “Perhaps ‘tis the answer. But remember, thee has never escape at all if love is not there. (16.45-47)

How do Hannah and Kit’s views of marriage differ here? Which do you agree with?

“’Tis no use, William,” she said now. “You and I would always be uneasy, all of our lives. We would always be hoping for the other one to be different, and always being disappointed when it didn’t happen. No matter how hard I tried, I know I could never care about the things that seems so important to you.” (20.35)

Kit and William call off their courtship. Why are the two so ill-matched?

On a Lecture Day in April two marriage intentions were announced together in the Meeting House. John Holbrook and Mercy Wood. William Ashby and Judith Wood.

Looks like there’s been some partner swapping going on. In what ways is each couple suited for each other?

“There’ll be a house someday, in Saybrook, or here in Wethersfield if you like. I’ve thought of nothing else all winter. In November we’ll sail south to the Indies. In the summer – ”

“In the summer Hannah and I will have a garden!” (21.42-43)

Kit is getting married to Nat. What makes them an appropriate couple?

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