Houjun Liu

NUS-ENG401 I, Tituba Essay Planning

General Information

Due DateTopicImportant Documents
9/29Lit. DevicesI, Tituba


In an interview, Maryse Conde explains, “I was attracted to write the particular story of Tituba because this woman was unjustly treated by history. I felt the need to give her a reality that was denied to her because of her color and her gender.” Choose one or two literary devices and explain how Conde uses it/them in the novel to give Tituba her subjecthood. Examples could be: narrative voice, allusion, irony, dialogue, etc.

Claim Synthesis

Quotes Bin

Birth Determines Capacity

  • That birth determines the capacity for one to do Evil

    There was one thing, however, that I didn’t know: evil is a gift received at birth. There’s no acquiring it. Those of us who have not come into this world armed with spurs and fangs are losers in every combat. (73)

  • Mama Yaya highlights that misfortune lies in the center of life derived from birth

    Misfortune, as you know, is our constant companion. We are born with it, we lie with it, and we squabble with it for the same withered breast. It eats the codfish from our calabash. But we’re tough, us n—! (85)

  • Believes that having choice in birth is what would make it fulfilling

    (Irony between “gift” and “choice”)

    I began to doubt seriously Mama Yaya’s basic conviction that life is a gift. Life would only be a gift if each of us could choose the womb that carried us. … If one day I am born again, let it be in the steely army of conquerors! (120)

  • Tituba believes that she is born as a healer

    The terror of these people seemed like an injustice to me. They should have greeted me with shouts of joy and welcome and presented me with a list of illnesses that I would have tried my utmost to cure. I was born to heal, not to frighten. (12)

“Births” Other People

  • Elizabeth Parris “reborn” after Tituba’s Care

    Up till then I had not called on the supernatural to care for Elizabeth Parris. … hat night I decided to use my powers. … In the morning the color returned to Goodwife Parris’s cheeks. She asked for a little water. Toward midday she managed to feed herself. And in the evening she went to sleep like a newborn babe. (45)

  • The “evil” of abortion transferred from Tituba into Betsy

    I made her swear not to tell anyone and at dusk I plunged her up to her neck in a liquid to which I had given all the properties of amniotic fluid. … Plunging Betsey into this scalding hot bath, it seemed to me that these same hands, that not long ago had dealt death were now giving life, and I was purifying myself of the murder of my child. (63)

    Her upper lip curled up into an ugly pout, revealing her sick gums. “You, do good? You’re a Negress, Tituba! You can only do evil. You are evil itself.” … “That bath you had me take; what was in it? The blood of a newborn baby that died from one of your spells?” I was aghast. (77)

Rebirth After Death (like the actual book)

  • Tituba’s Freeing from Prison into Benjamin is Described an Rebirth

    He smiled cynically. “A man who hasn’t got very much money. You know how much slaves are selling for at the present time? Twenty-five pounds!” Our conversation stopped there, but now I knew the fate awaiting me. Another master, another bondage. (120)

    Then with one skillful blow of the mallet he smashed my chains to pieces. He did the same thing with my wrists while I screamed. … I screamed, and this scream, the terrified cry of a newborn baby, heralded my return to this world. I had to learn how to walk again. … Few people have the misfortune to be born twice. (122)

  • Tituba’s “real” story begins only after death

    And that is the story of my life. Such a bitter, bitter story. My real story starts where this one leaves off and it has no end. (175)

  • Successful rebirth only without birth

    I watched her grow up and stumble around on her shaky legs, exploring the pur- gatory of the plantation, finding her delight in the shape of a cloud, the drooping foliage of an ylang-ylang, or the taste of a bitter orange. … A child I didn’t give birth to but whom I chose! What motherhood could be nobler! (177)


  • Book opens with the framing of her being born

    I was born from this act of aggression. From this act of hatred and contempt. (3)

  • Package insert praises death as something positive

    “Death is a porte whereby we pass to joye; Lyfe is a lake that drowneth all in payne –John Harrington” (Cover Insert)

  • Plans for Abortion

    There is no happiness in motherhood for a slave. It is little more than the expulsion of an innocent baby, who will have no chance to change its fate, into a world of slavery and abjection…. That night, my baby was carried out of my womb in a flow of black blood. I saw him wave his arms like a tadpole in distress and I burst into tears. (52)

Subclaim Development

Tituba Realizes Birth is Involuntary

She leverages (Re)Birth to change others, to poor results

Perhaps as an attempt to help others control (“choose”) birth, she uses her power to reborn people; like

But Psych! Both of them turned on her. Especially Betsy Parris.

Also her child was aborted.

The work literally provides rebirth of Tituba and empowers her to give birth despite her abortion

Tituba Herself raised her station against those of Benjamin. Yet, this was not voluntary (see quote in section) and designed by Condé in the story.

Tituba’s “real” story begins only after forcible death/“rebirth”, and she (author?) considers it nobel to give this new form of birth without giving birth (which didn’t happen in real world), but without the request of the born either.

Conclusiony bit

So this whole book, beginning at her birth, covered by a celebration of alternative birth illustrates such a process of providing agency.

The Claim

The motif of birth and rebirth plays an important role in Maryse Condé’s work I, Tituba. Despite Tituba’s own failed attempt at controlling the (re)birth of herself and others to better their fate in history, Condé offers Tituba a renewed empowerment in birth by both illustrating her “rebirth” and providing her a chance to elect a descendant she wasn’t originally able to bear.