Celia Rees Witch Child - New World Tasks

New World


Mary and the Puritans have arrived in Salem, but there is uncertainty in this New World. The following tasks and exercises will help you engage with what happens in this section of the novel.

Remember to use the words of question and use evidence from the text to support your response. You can check your own answers with the suggested responses at the bottom of the page.

Entry 28 – Creative Writing

Mary arrives in the New World but is “homesick for the ship” because she felt “bewildered” on “dry land” and the “ground felt strange”. At the end of the chapter, she is “overwhelmed” by “nausea”.

Write a short story about when you arrived in a strange place for the first time.

Your story can be real or imaginary.

By describing the setting in detail, you will be able include more of your own thoughts and feelings about that world. Make sure you add at least one other character.

Integrating Quotations

Look at the previous exercise and the outline of Mary’s feelings when she arrives in this New World. Notice how the words of the text are integrated and help form the sentence.

At the start of Entry 29, the narrator describes the evening. Try to outline the setting and integrate the following quotations into your summary:

  1. hotter than an English summer
  2. much more humid
  3. heat does not fade with the setting of the sun
  4. it seems to increase until I find it hard to breathe
  5. the night is very clear
  6. the moon hangs low and large, like a silver lantern
  7. the stars blaze across in a great arc
  8. fireflies give out little points of light
  9. crickets and frogs call into the night

Remember to use quotation marks.

You should try this exercise again and summarise how the author presents buildings and people. For example:

Mary thought it was “much more humid” and “hotter than an English summer”.

Very few of the houses are “built of brick or stone”. They are mostly “wood-framed and clad in planks”.

Active Comprehension

Comprehension questions are a good way of measuring your reading skills. They are designed to test your knowledge and understanding of the story.

Read through Entry 30. Instead of responding to questions on the various characters, try to create your own. For example:

Why did Martha spread “lavender between the layers of clothes” during the voyage?

Focus your attention on Deborah, Hannah and the two “native people”. Of course, once you have created at least five questions, you should write your own answers.

Character Motivation

In Entry 28, Reverend Cornwell wanted “God’s guidance” to help “clear” the “way forward”. After a week in Salem, the congregation must make a decision on what to do next because the “townspeople are anxious” for them “move on”.  Rebekah’s father, John Rivers, believes they cannot “delay much longer” or they will not be able to “build shelters before winter”.

In Entry 33, they listen to Cornwell’s advice and agree to “follow Reverend Johnson’s lead into the wilderness”.

Many of the characters have different motivations for going with Cornwell and the Elders. Explore the reasons why Martha, Jonah, Tobias, Deborah and Hannah want to go into the “wilderness”


One straightforward way Rees creates tension and conflict in the story is by presenting characters and ideas as opposites. This rhetorical device is called antithesis.

You might remember how the narrator noted the difference between her “little sleeping platform” with “rough homespun blankets” compared to the luxurious bed in the inn with its “brass pan full of coals”. Rees uses this contrast to show the change in the character’s circumstances.

An important example is the different interpretation of the “colored lights” in the “northern sky”. Cornwell believes it is a sign from God whereas Jonah Morse names them the Aurora Borealis.

Read Entry 35 and identify examples of antithesis.

Integrating Quotations Task

Atmosphere Answer

Mary feels disorientated in this new world. She thought it was “much more humid” and “hotter than an English summer”. At home, there would be cooler evenings, but in America the “heat does not fade with the setting of the sun”. In fact, it seems to get warmer and it is “hard to breathe”.

However, the sky is beautiful and she likes how the “night is very clear” and the way the “moon hangs low and large” and lights up the landscape “like a silver lantern”. She can also see “the stars blaze across in a great arc”.

There are also different creatures in this new world. She can see “fireflies” and their “little points of light”. She can also hear “crickets and frogs call into the night”. It is a very serene summer evening.


The buildings in the new world are also very different and the “scent of new-worked wood is everywhere. In other words, all of the buildings are new. Very few of the houses are “built of brick or stone”. They are mostly “wood-framed and clad in planks”. The roofs are “tiled with wooden shingles” and are “steep pitched” to protect them from the harsh winter weather.

Character Motivations

Many of the characters have different motivations for going with Cornwell and the Elders. Martha decides to go with others because she considers them family. The reader learns this when she tells Widow Hesketh that she will join her “kin” who is related to by “blood and marriage”. She also reveals it is “not the time” for her to “fall by wayside” of the “Lord’s path”.

At first, Jonah is reluctant to go into the wilderness because he could make a good living in Salem “selling pills and potions”. He also knows very little about farming and is worried he may not be accepted by the Puritans. However, Tobias decides to go because he is in love.

Deborah is attracted to Tobias so she is eager to continue the journey into the woods. Hannah always follows her sister.

Finding Antithesis

Suggested Answer

The Salem men say the travellers should use “native guides” to help them through the woods. However, Reverend Cornwell and the Elders are suspicious and consider them to be “heathen” and the “sons of Satan”. They would rather put their “trust” in God.

Cornwell and the Elders are religious but the Salem men are “practical and shrewd” who would not go into the woods because “without native knowledge” they “are sure to get lost”.

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Thanks for reading!