Summary: Chapter Twenty
December’s first snowfall brings a new climate for Kit to compare with Barbados, illuminating her continued longing to return to the island. William calls on Kit for the first time since her arrest, claiming to have stayed away because of the illnesses. Kit gives him a cool reception, but Judith and William share a lively conversation about all the social doings in the town she missed during her illness. William relates that contact with John’s militia detachment has been lost, alarming the household. As Kit sees William to the door, he states he is willing to go forward with their engagement if she agrees to live within social norms and terminates contact with Prudence. Kit sees the futility of going forward with the marriage and ends their courtship for good.
At Thankful Peabody’s wedding reception, two of John’s militia detachment appear with news that he was captured by Indians. Judith collapses and William reaches her first to care for her and see her home safely. As January turns into February, Kit resolves to return to Barbados. During this time, Judith and William realize they were meant for each other. In March, John stumbles into the Woods’ home, having escaped captivity. Upon entering the house, he immediately throws himself into Mercy’s arms.
Summary: Chapter Twenty-One
In April, two engagements are announced, John and Mercy’s and William and Judith’s, with a double wedding set in May. John will be ordained and ready to take on a parish in Wethersfield, and the couple will live with Matthew and Rachel for the foreseeable future. With John set to help with the planting and Mercy with the household, Kit feels free to make independent decisions about her future. As she plans to sell her dresses to buy passage on a ship to Barbados where she will find employment as a governess to a wealthy plantation family, she recognizes her affection for New England. She realizes that her deep desire to be with Nat would allow her to join her two worlds. As if sensing Kit’s thoughts, Nat soon arrives in the harbor with his own new ship named for Kit and plans to ask Kit’s uncle to marry her.
Analysis: Chapters Twenty–Twenty-One
The motif of changing seasons appears with the dawn of winter and symbolizes new beginnings for Kit, as well as the other characters in the novel. Kit has finally shed the haughtiness and naivete of her early days in Wethersfield and has come to value her own strength and independence. William’s abandonment of Kit at trial compared to how Matthew, Nat, and Prudence defended her reminds Kit that love and friendship are not values worth sacrificing and provides her with the strength to end their courtship. John’s presumed death in captivity opens the door for Judith and William to finally recognize their love for each other. John escapes captivity and immediately makes his feelings for Mercy known, finally resolving the novel’s love conflict with the engagement of the two couples.
The final chapter completes Kit’s coming-of-age journey as she makes her decision to return to Barbados as a governess. Kit’s dream of sailing home to Barbados alongside Nat on the Dolphin convinces her that it’s Barbados she truly longs for. However, this dream also implies that it is Nat whom she truly longs for and foreshadows Nat’s proposal. Another example of how Kit has come full circle is presented when Kit decides to gift Judith and Mercy with the two fine dresses she attempted to give them on her first day in Wethersfield. She knows that now Matthew will allow them to accept the dresses because they are being given with love instead of pride. Before Nat returns to Wethersfield, Kit finally recognizes that she’s loved him all along, indicating she is now able to take responsibility for her feelings as well as her actions. This recognition emphasizes her journey toward maturity over the course of the novel and implies that her choice to marry Nat is a decision made from both love and mature wisdom. Kit’s evolution into a young woman who knows herself and her place in the world finalizes the arc of the novel as a bildungsroman.