Summary: Chapter Eighteen
Kit thanks her uncle for standing up for her against the mob’s accusations of her being a witch. Matthew reveals that her selfless care of the household during Judith’s and Mercy’s illnesses changed his disapproval of her into appreciation. A deacon from their church, the town constable, and Goodwife and Goodman Cruff arrive with a signed warrant for Kit’s arrest on the charge of witchcraft based on finding Kit’s silver hornbook in a search of Hannah’s home. The constable locks Kit up in a shed on his property and informs her of the court judgments for witchcraft—the hanging of Goody Johnson and the banishment of Goody Harrison. Kit hopes she can depend on the respectable William to come to her defense. She faces up to her missteps in undermining Matthew’s authority through disobedience and putting Prudence in danger.
Summary: Chapter Nineteen
During her incarceration, Kit takes courage from a visit by her aunt Rachel. In the morning, Kit receives a sympathetic visit from the constable’s wife, who feeds her and helps her clean up for the inquest. An escort delivers Kit to the Town House, where she faces the magistrate Captain Samuel Talcott, the Reverends John Woodbridge and Gershom Bulkeley, and the town selectmen, her uncle among them. Kit notes that William has not come.
The charges are read: consorting with Hannah Tupper, an alleged witch, and arranging with the devil to bring the illness that caused the death of town children. Townspeople recount wild supernatural speculations and outlandish claims of spells as so-called evidence. When Reverend Bulkeley and Matthew challenge the legality of accepting uncorroborated allegations, Goodwife Cruff presents the copybook that Kit had given Prudence to practice writing her name as diabolical incantations. Nat brings Prudence, who gives confident testimony that Kit taught her to read and write and those are her signatures. Reverend Bulkeley requests Prudence write her name and read a Bible passage, which she does. Prudence’s skill proves to Adam Cruff that his wife has been lying about Prudence’s supposed stupidity to keep her as slave labor. He withdraws the charge, and Kit is cleared and released.
Analysis: Chapters Eighteen–Nineteen
The themes of prejudice and religious hypocrisy are emphasized as Goodman and Goodwife Cruff make a formal accusation of witchcraft against Kit. Kit’s refusal to put Prudence in danger to save herself by revealing the true use of the silver hornbook shows that in contrast to her prejudiced neighbors, Kit truly embodies the Christian values of compassion and love. At this crucial juncture, Kit thinks only of how her actions have brought shame on Matthew and the rest of the household and of protecting Prudence. Matthew’s steadfast defense of Kit and his indignation at the absurdity of the charges show a turning point in his ability to see past religious hypocrisy. Although Kit has broken his trust by visiting Hannah, her transformation into a hard-working member of his household has earned his respect and love.
Kit’s trial juxtaposes the central themes of friendship and prejudice. Prudence, who entered the novel as a meek and downtrodden child, is transformed in this scene. She boldly stands up before her abusive mother and the entire community to read passages from the Bible, an act that exonerates Kit. This act of bravery is a direct result of Kit’s kindness and love for Prudence, two emotions that have been withheld from Prudence by her mother. No character represents ignorance and hatred more than Prudence’s mother, Goodwife Cruff, making Prudence’s act of courage all the more poignant. Goodman Cruff’s astonishment and pride in Prudence’s intelligence and withdrawal of charges against Kit mark the final rebuke of Goodwife Cruff’s hateful fearmongering. This resolution drives home the novel’s central message that knowledge, compassion, and acceptance are the keys to overcoming ignorance and prejudice.