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Lois the Witch

Lois the Witch

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The well-educated wife of a Unitarian minister in Victorian Manchester, Elizabeth Gaskell must have understood the dangers of misused Christianity and religious intolerance in a closed community. In Lois the Witch, uncertainty surrounds Salem - deep forests, wild animals, and Indians who are thought to be savage pawns of Satan. In the midst of that untamed wilderness is a town full of people trying to be what they believe to be godly, each of whom lives in fear that he or she may not be among the chosen, the predestined of God.
Into this repressed, volatile setting arrives Lois Barclay, a young, attractive, pious English Anglican whose parents have died and who has come to live with her Puritan uncle and his family. Lois is different from her new family in every way. While she is warm, affectionate, empathetic, and genuinely and effortlessly godly, she soon discovers that her aunt is cold and proud ("Godly Mr Cotton Mather hath said that even he might learn of me; and I would advise thee rather to humble thyself"). Her older daughter, misnamed Faith, for she is agnostic, is both obsessive and unexpressive, and her younger daughter, misnamed Prudence, is sadistic and vicious. More disturbingly, her son, in his early twenties and unmarried, sees visions and hears voices, and not surprisingly, focuses his long-repressed sexuality on the gentle, attractive newcomer.
Haplessly, Lois becomes the focal point for this family's frustrations, fears, desires, jealousies, and, finally, hatred. She, like many of the "witches," is a victim of being different in a conformist society that is both filled with unfulfilled desires and afraid of the unknown.