Friday, January 7, 2011

A Break with Charity

Rinaldi, Ann. A Break with Charity: A Story about the Salem Witch Trials. New York: Scholastic, 1992.

Plot Summary
This is another story of the Salem Witch Trials. The plot follows Susanna English's role in the hysteria that surrounded Salem in 1692. Rinaldi combines fact and fiction to create an accessible story about this black mark in American history.

My Thoughts
This was a pretty interesting read about the Salem Witch Trials. Rinaldi uses enough factual evidence to make her story seem plausible and true. As I read, I kept thinking about the movie I show my students entitled "Three Sovereigns for Sarah." There are some additional characters in this book that do not appear in the movie, which I enjoyed reading and seeing the story fleshed out even more. In the author's note section, Rinaldi states that she takes some creative license in making Susanna English a "silent voice" to help the stopping of the hysteria.

I think the author explains with great accuracy with how the calling out of "witches" happens. The girls were bored. They were seeking attention and they got it from the magistrates. The girls were trying to "escape [life in Salem]'s suffocating effects (Rinaldi 73). Finally they were given some power in their dull little worlds. "No one our age ever got such attention before" (Rinaldi 97). Boy, did they use it!

The description of Ann Putnam, Jr. is so vivid. She truly believes she's "doing this town a favor" by naming the troublemakers and outcasts as witches (88). She tells Susanna that the girls are "doing the Lord's work" by accusing witches (Rinaldi 153). Susanna realizes that Ann actually believes the fits and afflictions are real.

I found the title reference on three different pages: 88, 136, and 152.

The irony of the entire situation is, of course, that the magistrates did not see the false testimonies the girls gave. The townspeople thought, "Let this matter be dealt with by learned men" (Rinaldi 111). These "learned" men convicted and hanged 19 people and had one man pressed to death.

The take away advice from this book is from Tituba. She is going to save herself (Rinaldi 118) and tells Susanna, "the secret is to know when to speak and when to remain silent" (Rinaldi 119). I wish that I would heed this advice. I often speak when I shouldn't.

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