Summary: Chapter Three
Captain Eaton, Nat, and three sailors escort Kit and her belongings to the home of Kit’s uncle and aunt, Matthew and Rachel Wood. On the walk, Kit continues to compare the plainness of Wethersfield to the tropical beauty of Barbados. The party arrives at the Woods’ home. Rachel answers Captain Eaton’s knock, and Kit—expecting the beautiful, vivacious woman her grandfather had talked about—takes the careworn woman for a servant. Only when Rachel reacts to Kit as if she’s seeing the ghost of her sister does Kit realize that this woman is her aunt. Rachel welcomes Kit with open arms.
Over breakfast, Kit meets her uncle Matthew and her cousins, Judith and Mercy. Kit’s fashionable dress and seven trunks of belongings amaze and intrigue the frugal women but offend the spiritually minded Matthew. They are shocked to learn that Kit’s sudden appearance isn’t just a visit. Kit reveals that her grandfather died four months prior, she liquidated his estate to pay debts, and that as she has nowhere else to go, she’s come to live with them. Matthew reluctantly agrees that as Kit’s only relatives, they have a duty to care for her.
Summary: Chapter Four
Rachel leaves the house to check on an elderly neighbor, which Judith anticipates will take enough time to allow exploration of Kit’s trunks. Ignoring Mercy’s warning that they need to start their chores, Judith eagerly asks to see Kit’s fashionable dresses. Rachel returns to the three cousins exploring the trunks, oblivious to the uncleared breakfast. Kit draws Rachel into the excitement with a flattering hat that takes years off her face, enthralling her daughters.
Matthew unexpectedly returns for a tool and reprimands the group for their frivolity. He singles out Kit for her vanity and rejects the clothing gifts she has attempted to give his family. Matthew allows Mercy to keep an elegant shawl, however, because of her delicate health. Kit soon learns that the daily reality of their lives doesn’t include servants and that everyone must contribute hard work. As Mercy teaches Kit to process wool into thread, Kit confides that she left Barbados to escape a marriage and worries that Matthew will send her back. Mercy tells Kit the key to Matthew’s good will is to be useful. Later, Kit overhears Judith characterizing her as a spoiled child and wishing that Kit were a boy to help Matthew.
Analysis: Chapters Three–Four
Kit’s characterization as an outsider continues as she arrives at her aunt and uncle’s home unannounced and with a shocking seven trunks of belongings in tow. Although she is immediately and warmly welcomed by Aunt Rachel, Uncle Matthew’s unenthusiastic reception highlights the suspicion with which Puritans regard outsiders. He immediately interrogates her over issues that could make their household stand out among their neighbors, such as why she did not write to let them know she was coming, whether she’s settled her grandfather’s debts, and the gossip that will ensue over her seven trunks of belongings. Nat’s parting words to Kit that only those guilty of witchcraft can float serve as a warning of the dangers of standing out in a community that value uniformity. This statement also foreshadows how Kit’s stylish clothing and independent nature will be perceived by her new community.
In Chapter Four, the cold wind that sweeps through the house when Uncle Matthew returns to find his wife and daughters swept up in trying on Kit’s fancy garments provides a dramatic shift in tone and symbolizes the rigidity of life in Wethersfield. The contrasting images of cold versus warmth repeat throughout the novel. Kit frequently ruminates on how dreary, cold, and provincial she finds Wethersfield in comparison to sunny, sophisticated Barbados. Her elegant dresses and seven trunks of belongings also contrast sharply with the plain woolen dresses of her cousins and aunt and the sparse, practical items of their simple home. The constant stream of chores in the Wood household provides insight into the difficult lives of Puritans in the late 1600s. It’s clear that Kit’s affluent upbringing did not prepare her for the hard work necessary to survive in Puritan New England as she is flustered and ineffective at carding wool, churning lye into soap, and preparing food. Kit’s hurt feelings at overhearing Judith calling her spoiled and wishing she were a boy—along with her determination to be useful—emphasize the struggles Kit faces in her new life.