Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Wicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials...random thoughts
It was just luck that dropped this book into my lap. Luck, in the form of a 13-year-old daughter, that is. I had never heard of this book until Annie brought it home from the library a couple weeks ago.
A couple years ago, Annie developed a fascination with the Salem Witch Trials...a fascination I fully related to--remembering the days when I was her age. But truthfully, it's a fascination I never quite outgrew...I just don't actively seek out new books on the subject these days. But it was, for example, with great joy that I got to introduce Annie to The Crucible a couple years back. :)
But what is it that makes the horrible events of this time so intriguing? For me, I think it's the myriad of unanswered questions. We will never truly know the motivations of these young girls. What resulted because of their actions is unforgivable. But why? Why would they do what they did? Why would they send innocent people to their deaths? Why why why?
Wicked Girls is yet another speculative journey into the minds of the young accusers. Written in free verse style, it read unlike any other novelization of these events I've encountered. It wasn't all that long ago that novels in verse made me quite wary, but with a handful now under my belt, I can honestly say that I quite enjoy the form.
Hemphill told the story through the voices of three of the "afflicted"--Mercy Lewis, Ann Putnam Jr., and Mary Walcott (called Margaret in the book). And they are definitely three distinct voices. With three different backgrounds. With three different probable futures. All of these things are explored, not overtly but subtlely, as we watch the story unfold. It is easy to see how all of these things might come into play as motivations, both conscious and unconscious, for each of these girls. And the complicated and ever-changing relationships among the girls shine even more potential light on the reasons why things might have unfolded the way they did.
Perhaps what I loved most in its exploration, however, was the look at the life of women in general at this time. Hemphill doesn't come out and say, "Look, their lives sucked, so it's inevitable these girls would behave this way." Obviously, that's ridiculous. But she gives us glimpse after glimpse after glimpse into the lack of power these girls had over anything in their lives...that is, until they became revered for their ability to see witches...
It goes without saying that this is a complicated topic. And we never will know all the answers. But I think it's a good thing that we do continue to try to understand. After all, using the less literal meaning, witch hunts still occur today.