Now that I’m done ranting and raving about defining the words “morality” and “Christian“, I’m back to my Monday series on Books that Inspire. Today’s book is a book that I greatly influenced me as a young woman and consequently made a staple in my home school curriculum.
In my opinion no one has written young adult historical fiction as well as Elizabeth George Speare in The Witch of Blackbird Pond. She has made her main character Kit sympathetic enough for any young lady to “feel” her circumstances, and yet has infused every moment with vital information from the setting and time and history of the story. As an aspiring author of my first historical fiction, I’ve studied this book as a “how to” in this writing genre.
One of the things I have appreciated most about Ms. Speare’s writing is how deep the conflicts and characters are. For instance, when one writes about the Puritans and Quakers during the colonial days, it can be a temptation to write stereotypically. However, this book clearly includes the good, the bad and the ugly. This is one of the biggest lessons I learned from this book: when looking back in history, things are rarely as black and white as we report them to be later. There are as many characters to be admired as there are to be despised in her story, and even those who are of good heart can become confused in the mass hysteria of a what the general public has decided.
Reading this book also buided me in times when someone in my oikos is being accused of an action, not to merely judge on the facts of the accuser, but to investigate the whole of the situation. We are all shaped by our fears and prejudices, and must be careful of the conclusions we draw from surface information.
There is much to be learned from the relationship between Kit and her Quaker neighbor who is suspected to be a witch, simply because she worships differently from the Puritans. Kit follows her convictions and conscience; something all of us need to be encouraged in from time to time.
Another lesson of importance found in The Witch of Blackbird Pond is the reminder to always consider culture when considering a person’s differences. Kit had come from Barbados, where the rules about what was proper for a young woman were quite different from those of Puritan America. All of the conflict in this novel could have been avoided if the Americans would have considered the culture from which Kit came from and if someone had warned her of what was socially acceptable in the new land to which she traveled.
Lastly, this book taught me something about religion and history. It was this book that first made me aware of the irony of the Puritan’s hatred of anyone different from themselves, seeing that the reason they came to this country to begin with was to escape persecution from those who ridiculed them for believing differently than mainstream England. Isn’t that true of all of us? We fight for a particular freedom only to impose our restrictions on someone else? It kind of reminds me of the parable Jesus told about the man owing a debt. He was forgiven his huge debt, but then harshly demands a much smaller amount from someone owing him.
Speare, in her masterful writing, caused me to become aware of the dangers of imposing restrictions and standards of what it means to be a Christian or in this case a witch beyond the confines of God’s Word. Making up our own rules outside of God’s rules get us and others in trouble every time. No where does the Bible qualify a witch as someone who can float, or swim, yet this is the standard by which Kit’s accusers begin to investigate her life by.