A Break With Charity
Posted October 17th, 2007 by aidaguhlin
in World of Books
In "A Break With Charity", Ann Rinaldi investigates the idea that the girls that started the Salem Witch Trials were lying about the so called "witches".
It starts out with Susana English, the daughter of wealthy Philip English, a man of gentry and enlightenment. She is watching the house of Reverend Pariss, where the Circle, that includes the Reverend's daughter, Betsy Pariss and the leader of the group, Ann Putnam, are talking with Tituba, the Parisse's slave.
Susana wishes to be in the Circle, but isn't allowed because Susana lives in town and her father is rich. The other girls- unlike Susana - live in the village and do not have much money. Susana notices that they only go when Reverend Pariss is out and when they leave, she goes to Tituba to ask about her brother, who is currently out at the sea. As Tituba talks to Susana about this, Betsy comes downstairs, talking about how she has done wrong and her father would be very angry with her. Tituba says it's because of a fever, but Susana is doubtful.
Several days later, Susana has heard that Ann Putnam and the other girls claim to be "afflicted". Susana goes over to talk to Ann, Ann admits that it is a lie. She says of how her mother will tell her who to accuse of witchcraft, based most likely off of who our her enemies. Susana says she'll never get away with it, but Ann Putnam threatens to accuse one of her family of witchcraft. She asks her, "You will not break charity with me, will you Susana?" Susana, trapped, promises not to tell anyone.
Almost immediately, they accuse Sarah Good and Tituba. They claim to have seen "specters" and that Tituba asked them to sign the Devil's book. Tituba quickly admits to things, claiming to be a witch and talking of black dogs and a man in a dark black hat asking her to sign the Devil's book. And then she says that there were nine others names in the book.
One by one, many people are accused. They can deny it, but whenever that happened, the girls would mimic what they did, keeping this up until they confessed. Then, finally, five are convicted of witchcraft and are hung. One of which, is Sarah Good. Her four-year old daughter, Dorcas Good, also accused of witchcraft, is sent to a prison in Boston, and is so small, that they needed to make special chains for her.
After a while, one woman's sister is accused of witchcraft and will surely be accused of witchcraft, arrives at church. Susana's mother goes over and sits with her, to comfort her while everyone else stares at her. Susana's mother fears she'll be accused of witchcraft, and is. They come in the middle of the night, and take her away. The next day, Susana bursts into Ann Putnam's room and asks why she accused her mother. Ann says it had to be done ever since she sat next to the woman in church. At this point, Susana realizes that the girls have begun to believe their own lie. Susana chooses to keep quiet for fear that she'll accuse the rest of her family. It takes a while, but in the end she does.
All the while, the son of a judge, Johnathon, is courting Susana. He disagrees with his father and helps Susana. The uncle of Ann Putnam leads a secret society against the afflicted girls. Susana, who's entire family have now been accused and are fleeing, is living with the Putnams. Susana lives a long time with them, helping the best she can.
Susana soon decides, after yet another hanging, to tell Mr. Putnam about Ann. But, several days pass, because Mr. Putnam is so busy and Susana is very scared. When she does tell him he is angry but, realizes it is not all her fault. Soon, he takes her to a man who writes a letter to the judges, saying that the girls have been lying. Susana English is not mentioned, which allowed Ann Rinaldi to have the idea that Susana could have told him this.
This story his told while Susana awaits the beginning of a church meeting in the church she has not set foot in since her mother was accused. She has married now, and she only came because her husband reminded her that her children would one day attend. Ann Putnam has come before the church to ask for forgiveness for what she did so long before. Susana knows many will forgive her. Susana is convinced that she won't forgive her. But when Ann stops by her pew and asks for her forgiveness, Susana sees what the lie has done to her. She has no husband and will never have any children. Susana forgives her, but still wonders what about Dorcas Good, who was released from prison and wanders around Salem like a lost soul? Or Tituba, who was sold back into slavery, away from her husband? And while Susana thinks about this, she is thankful that she is alive and well.
This book has many historical references that are helpful and true. Nothing is made up and could have very well have happened. The Salem Witch Trials is a very good book.
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