AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem is presented as a fictive (re)telling of the slave woman's story, by Tituba herself, to Maryse Conde. Tituba gives her reason for these "impassioned efforts to revoke her own disappearance from history" ("Foreword" xi) as simply wanting to be allowed her deserved part in the drama of history. Tituba deliberately sets out to tell the story of her life to "undo the stories [other people] had . . . woven about" her (11). But as sure as she is that "[her] people will keep [Tituba's] memory in their hearts and have no need for the written word" (176), Tituba nonetheless desires that people read [her] tale" [emphasis added] (150). The idea of not "hav[ing] gone down in history," of being nothing more than "a few lines in the many volumes," renders Tituba "speechless" (149). Her joy at hearing a song sung about her after her death is rendered genuinely, but the privileging of writing and her speechlessness in the face of her elision from History betrays a preoccupation of I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem around the construction of history in written words. I say "around" written history to argue that the text operates in circular modes and motifs toward articulation of this Caribbean slave woman who "had a fate that no one could remember" (149). Tituba writes "around" the only surviving historical record of her existence, the transcript of her witch-trial in Salem. By situating this snippet of history within her narrative, Tituba forces a recontextualization of History's reading of her life.
Now, the limits of the reader's suspended disbelief are certainly exceeded here. It is in no way credible that Tituba herself should include the written record of her trial verbatim. The transcript stands out in relief against the rest of the text, indicating to the reader that alternative strategies are going to be called for in understanding the project of L Tituba. In other words, the alert reader realizes that Conde does not intend that the novel be read "straight"; we should instead, as I suggest, read it in circles.
Within the economy of the text, Tituba's (hi)story is written in circles. Scenes are played out only to be recalled, re-enacted, and - most importantly for the novel - rewritten. Tituba and her mother function almost as doubles in the text. Tituba recalls her early years by saying that "Yao had two children, my mother and me" (6). Tituba's second significant relationship with a woman echoes her mother's only significant relationship with another woman: both Tituba and Abena, as young women, enjoy very close relationships …