Tituba, Black Witch Of Salem Essay

Tituba, Black Witch Of Salem Essay

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“It seemed that I was gradually being forgotten,” laments Tituba, the eponymous heroine of Maryse Condé’s celebrated I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem. “I felt that I would only be mentioned in passing in these Salem witchcraft trials about which so much would be written later … There would never, ever, be a careful, sensitive biography recreating my life and its suffering” (110). Tituba’s prophetic threnodies do, in a sense, come to pass; though the historical figure upon whom she is based, a slave woman accused of practicing witchcraft in colonial Massachusetts, was arrested and imprisoned, she was released when the victims of the trials were granted retroactive amnesties – only to disappear completely from court records. In writing I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem, Condé placates Tituba by giving her the voice, and the “careful, sensitive biography,” history robbed her of; and in writing Tituba as a spirit that still looms about the lives of the descendants of African slaves Condé stresses the importance of placating her – and of acknowledging her anguish. Condé’s Tituba can, after all, be read as a metaphor for, or physical manifestation of, past and present suffering within the African diaspora. In having her linger about their lives, then, and in peppering the text with anachronistic discourse, Condé seems to suggest that contemporary diasporic African communities are still haunted by unacknowledged ancestral suffering. She seems to assert, therefore, that these communities must look back if they wish to move forward; one cannot move as well, after all, when one is injured, and one cannot heal a wound by pretending it is not there.
The passage in which Tituba discusses her fear of being “forgotten” by history is arguably one of...

... middle of paper ...

...ape persecution, one has to actively acknowledge that one is being persecuted and force everyone else to acknowledge it as well. This passage also hints at how affecting the legacies of a colonial past are: because the power imbalances that colonialism created were never rectified, their vestiges of that history still plague social structures today.
In conclusion, Maryse Condé uses the historical figure of Tituba as a metaphor for chronic African diasporic suffering. In making myriad references to the present in her work of historical fiction, Condé asserts that colonialism created power imbalances that continue to govern the lives of the African slaves’ descendants today. She seems to argue that, to break this cycle of suffering, one has to address the specter of inherited grief that hangs over one’s head: to acknowledge it, to understand it. To make peace with it.

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