Ah, the search for identity. It’s a common enough theme in young adult literature. Kit Tyler begins The Witch of Blackbird Pond very sure of who she is: the granddaughter of Sir Francis Tyler, an aristocrat from the island of Barbados. Kit is used to not doing much work at all; she is used to having her own slave to attend her, after all. She loves reading for pleasure (Shakespeare) and fine frilly dresses. Once Kit arrives at the home of the Wood family in the Puritan Connecticut Colony, though, she realizes that these things that once defined her (her social class, her books, her grandfather) are no longer a part of her life. Kit Tyler must decide who she is now. Who is she really?
The place you come from defines you as a person.
By the end of the novel, Kit would no longer fit in Barbados; she's become a New Englander.
Is home a person? A place? A feeling? Over the course of The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Kit Tyler has to figure out that question for herself. When Kit arrives in Wethersfield, home is a far-away tropical island called Barbados. She doesn’t feel like she belongs in Connecticut, a place with two church services every Sunday and no fancy dresses in sight. Gradually, Kit comes to be a part of the Wood family and makes new friends, such as the Quaker Hannah Tupper. Inevitably she decides, though, that she must return to Barbados to truly feel at “home” – the place she lived with her grandfather. It’s not until Kit interprets her dream about Nat and the Dolphin that she realizes that home is not so much a place as the people with whom we surround ourselves.
Kit can never call one place home; she wouldn't be happy unless she could call both Barbados and Connecticut "home." Marrying Nat allows her to live in both places.
Home, for Kit, is wherever she's with people who love her.
What does it mean to be a social outcast? And why is it not only cruel, but dangerous to cast someone out of society? Further, what happens when a society refuses to accept differences among its members? In its examination of the religious intolerance of 17th-century Puritans, The Witch of Blackbird Pond wants you to ask yourself these questions. Hannah Tupper’s house is burned to the ground because of fears about her religion. Kit Tyler is put on trial and nearly sentenced to death for her association with Hannah. Lives are nearly lost because the Puritan society fears those who are different. In these actions we see the violent consequences of intolerance.
The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.
Tolerance, understanding, and acceptance are necessary components of any peaceful society.
Religion is an important aspect of the world of The Witch of Blackbird Pond: it organizes, and in some instances divides, the society of Wethersfield, Connecticut. There are three main factions featured in the novel: the Puritans, the Quakers, and the Church of England. The Puritans are stern and pious, such as the members of the Wood family. The Quakers, like Hannah and her late husband, are outcast from Puritan society, though they are peace loving. Members of the Church of England, such as Kit and her grandfather, are typically Royalists and loyal to the king. (For more see our section on “Characterization: Religion.”) In the book we come to see that each religious faction must learn to get along with the other; if not, the consequences will be dire.
In the novel, the beliefs of all of the religions mentioned are more similar than they are different.
A peaceful society requires acceptance of all faiths and religious practices.
As almost everyone knows, politics can be a divisive issue – and are best not talked about in polite company. In The Witch of Blackbird Pond, this point is proven repeatedly. The two main political factions are the Royalists who are loyal to the crown in England (such as Gersholm Bulkeley and Kit’s grandfather) and the settlers in Connecticut who wish to retain their right to self govern (best exemplified by Uncle Matthew). The colonists’ struggle to keep their charter foreshadows the oncoming American Revolution.
Politics are a really just a bunch of hot button issues and should never be broached at the dinner table.
Governor Andros represents a tyrannical government.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond is the tale of two cultures clashing. Both the aristocratic Kit and the pious Puritans will have to stop judging each other based on outward appearances and expectations. Kit, who is at first a bit of a snob, thinks the Connecticut landscape is dreary and sees the people as plain – she even mistakes her aunt for a servant. The Puritan community, meanwhile, regards Kit suspiciously, what with her seven trunks of outlandish dresses and her ability to swim. They eventually accuse her of being a witch based on these appearances. Kit and the Puritans must learn to reconcile their values – and how they see each other.
You can’t judge a book by its cover.
The clothes we wear reflect our values; appearance is part of our identity.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond presents a distinct vision of colonial life in late 17th-century America. Through the novel’s vivid descriptions, we get a glimpse of the landscape, the people, their lives, their religion, and their politics. The novel’s rich depiction seems to suggest that colonial America can be a harsh – and rather complicated – place, filled with people with conflicting values and beliefs. Perhaps it is not only Kit who is struggling to find her identity in this novel, but also America itself.
Early America was made up of diverse people, many of whom didn’t get along so well.
Early Americans were different in many ways, though all were looking for a new home.
In The Witch of Blackbird Pond, education can mean different things to different people. For Kit Tyler, it’s reading Shakespeare in her grandfather’s library. For John Holbrook, it’s burning the midnight oil over a dusty volume of Latin. For Prudence Cruff, it’s learning the alphabet under a willow tree with Kit by her side. Whatever form education takes, what we learn in this novel is how truly crucial education is. Kit takes Prudence under her wing in an effort to educate the young girl. It is Prudence’s newly-learned reading and writing skills that will, in the end, clear Kit’s name and save her life.
In the novel, lack of education and intolerance are related.
The books shows that in early America, education was as important to leading a happy, successful life as it is today.
For a girl in the 17th-century, marriage was the major aim of her life. Her role as a wife and mother would come to wholly define her as a person. Needless to say, the question of marriage was huge for young women in the era, as it is for the female characters of <em>The Witch of Blackbird Pond</em>. Kit must decide whether she can abide William Ashby for the life of luxury he offers, or if perhaps love is more important when starting a family. This question is echoed in the experiences of Judith and Mercy, who must also find proper partners.
The book argues that love is the most important concern when it comes to picking a husband or wife.
Though marriage was inevitable for women in the seventeenth-century, women today have many other options.
The saying goes that “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.” Is this true? In The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Kit is orphaned when her grandfather dies. She goes to the Wood family in Connecticut. Feeling like she doesn’t fit in, she makes her own family: Hannah, Prudence, and eventually Nat. The Wood family will always be related to Kit by blood, but Kit has found a greater sense of belonging and home with Hannah, Prudence, and Nat.
You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.
Our family is made up of those we surround ourselves with, those we love.
Judge not lest ye be judged? These words would prove to be good advice for the characters of The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Everyone is passing judgment on everyone else. The judgment culminates when Kit is put on trial, accused of being a witch. The novel also wants readers to consider the concept of justice – in Kit’s situation, to sure, but also as it relates to the colonists whether it's just for them to be ruled by the distant King of England.
Kit's biggest problem with William Ashby is that he's too judgmental.
Though it is home to some good people, Wethersfield overall is not a just community.