Valencia College, Lake Nona Campus

“Finding Sanctuary Within Sin” – An Analysis of Robert Eggers’ 2016 film, The Witch

When we look directly into the eyes of a character, we are judging them. Their internal struggle is on display, and we are forced to make judgement on the character in question. When we’re introduced to the main family of The Witch during their extradition, we aren’t allowed to judge them. Their former crimes are untold. It isn’t until Thomasin is seen praying after being forced to live in the woods that we begin to bring her values into the forefront. The god-fearing family is thoroughly tested once Thomasin loses her infant brother whilst playing with him near the woods. It’s assumed that the baby is stolen, but we are never given clear evidence of theft. The fear of punishment from God and the presence of Satan himself loom amongst the family as their paranoia grows in their days of judgement.

The fear of punishment is the most prominent theme throughout the film, as we see each family member commit sin and attempt to cope with their deviancy. Each character is guilty of one of the seven deadly sins, and in their loss, they fear that their judgement is upon them. The fear itself is focused on the idea that a witch is lurking, but what each member holds to themselves is their own respective secret. The father holds lies about selling family heirloom, the son lusts over his sister, Thomasin herself commits to sin by pretending to be a witch in order to scare the youngest twins into keeping a secret. With each member consistently in fear of judgement, they, in panic, blame each other and attempt to sacrifice their family as a means of escaping the wrath of god.

Their paranoia is brought to a climax when the last, eldest, son returns after succumbing to the sin of lust within the woods surrounding the cabin. He is swiftly punished when he dies in the midst of a seizure. In an act of cowardice, the family resorts to blaming Thomasin for the act of witchcraft. It’s in this final day that we see the family punished for their sins. The family, one-by-one, is killed by the demonic forces, leaving Thomasin alone to decide whether to sign a contract with the devil. Unlike the rest of her family, Thomasin decides to give in and embrace sin into her life. After signing the contract, Thomasin is set free. Gone are the shackles of judgement. Thomasin starts her new life a free woman amongst many other witches in the woods.

While it seems cut and dry that the witch is a negative force upon the family, once it is revealed what the life of a witch is actually like, we see that the world  sinning is to be embraced. Thomasin floats to the tops of the trees among the woods. Her fear and anxiety that had taken over her life is removed, and instead, she victoriously laughs. Audiences might assume that this is life removed from God, but rather, this is life without fear of sin. Throughout Thomasin’s life, her family has held her in constant fear of judgement from the wrath of God, preventing her from being happy in her own body. When Thomasin is handed the opportunity to embrace freedom, she takes it. It’s not the removal of God that welcomes her to a free life, it’s the welcoming of sin that frees her soul to sanctuary.