Mary Rowlandson's A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration Analysis

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Held captive by Native Americans in the late sixteen hundreds, Mary Rowlandson, wrote soulfully about her experience in A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration with endless allusions to the Christian bible. As she became assimilated into the Native American culture, she held her Christian beliefs in order to sustain hope. Although she was treated kindly and not directly harmed while in captivity, she continued to call the natives, “enemies” (124) and never strayed from this colonial mindset.

William Bradford’s attempt to create a new book to end the bible in his work, Of Plymouth Plantation, is very similar to what Rowlandson illustrates in her piece. She alludes to many books in the bible that deal with the struggles of captivity and the salvation of deliverance. She states a verse from the book of Job: “‘And I only am escaped alone to tell the News’” (120). This piece of writing is meant to be the news she had been spared to deliver; she writes, “Though some are ready to say I speak it for my own credit; but I speak it in the presence of God, and to His Glory” (130).

She illustrates that like those in the bible, they are writing through God and therefore are delivering His ideas and thoughts, but the ideas that she delivers through this work are veiled with negative views of the natives: “Little do many think what is the savageness and brutishness of this barbarous enemy, Ay, even those that seem to profess more than others among them, when the English have fallen into their hands” (121). Rowlandson mentions constantly within this piece of the brutality of the natives and their traditions.

Rowlandson describes the natives as “merciless enemies” (121), “black creatures” (120), as well as, “ravenous beasts” (120). She continues to describe the natives with non-human adjectives—as though the natives were of another species. When she sees them dance in celebration, she writes that is “made the place a lively resemblance of hell” (121). She portrays a negative view of the natives throughout the entire piece with the exception of a single passage:

O the wonderful power of God I had seen, and the experience that I have had. I have been in the midst of those roaring lions, and savage bears, that feared neither God, nor the devil, by night and day, alone and in company, sleeping all sorts together, and yet not one of them ever offered me the least abuse of unchastity to me, in word or action. (130)

Although she describes the natives as lions and bears (to allude to the biblical figure, Daniel), she also states that they did not harm her.

Regardless of their motive, Rowlandson fails to ever place the natives in a positive light (with the exception of the previous quote). On many accounts, Rowlandson questions why God would allow the natives to prosper off such brutality: “But now our perverse and evil carriages in the sight of the Lord, have so offended Him, that instead of turning His hand against them, the Lord feeds and nourish them up to be a scourge to the whole land” (130). She finds it hard to understand that her culture had invaded the natives’ land.

When she returns home, she is relieved: “I was not before so much hemmed in with the merciless and cruel heathen, but now as much with pitiful, tender-heated and compassionate Christians” (131). She had preserved her faith throughout her “afflictions,” yet she had not yet accepted another culture as well she did her own. Her piece, therefore, as a symbol of faith to God, has avoided to describe all human beings as His children. Rowlandson wouldn’t accept the natives as humans and therefore didn’t bridge the gap between the two, conflicting cultures.

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Comments 13 comments

StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 4 years ago from New Jersey

Rowlandson was truly a woman of her time. I think deep down, and between the lines of narrative, Rowlandson did not hate the native or really think of them a heathens (maybe at first, but definitely not by the end). She was writing what she had to based on the laws of her culture and religion.

In this sense, she reminds me much of Phyllis Wheatley. While she was a slave, but given many freedoms, she could not say what she really felt. She was bound by he newfound religion and not upsetting the Wheatleys who treated her so "kind."


brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 4 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Author

True, in the end, she finds her own perception of the natives instead of what society wants her to believe. Thanks for reading and commenting. She does remind me of Wheatly in a way. I'm glad you are a fan.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 4 years ago from Texas

It is sad that too often we forget that we are the invaders and that many times the Indians were just protecting their way of life. You did not say how long she was held captive, do you know?


brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 4 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Author

I believe it was 11 weeks. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.


Enlydia Listener profile image

Enlydia Listener 4 years ago from trailer in the country

Rated up for interesting.


brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 4 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Author

Thank you, Enlydia.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 4 years ago from Texas

11 weeks probably felt like an eternity to her at the time, but that really is not that long. I wonder if her thinking would have changed substantially had she remained with them longer.


brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 4 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Author

I wonder too if more time would have changed her perception more and what it would amount to. Would she be more accepting or more resentful? Thanks again for commenting, HSB.


Derdriu 4 years ago

Brittany, What a fascinating, intelligent, thoughtful analysis of an early, reluctant experience in cultural diversity! The story makes me think of one of my favorite films from when I lived in Utah: "Against A Crooked Sky." A girl is kidnapped and becomes a reluctant participant in native culture. She has a kinder attitude even though she never gives up her own identity, with chillingly surprising consequences for others.

It also makes me think of one of my heroes, Chief Black Hawk of Wisconsin. There's a magnificent statue to his honor and memory in Illinois. His tribe kidnapped the Hall girls, who were released far wiser from the unsettling experience because of their respectful behavior and accordingly respectful treatment.

Thank you for sharing, etc.,

Derdriu


brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 4 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Author

Deirdre, thank you for commenting. I will have to watch "Against the Crooked Sky." It seems like an interesting film that closely relates to this narrative. I also need to learn more about Chief Black Hawk. Thank you for sharing some of these references. I look forward to learning more about captivity and relating it to texts. Mahalo.


zoe bordes 4 years ago

Do you think Mary Rowlandson's puritan faith waivers while she is in the hands of the indians? why or why not?


brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 4 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Author

Zoe, I do not think that she ever questions her faith even in such a desperate situation. Even though she comes to treat the natives with more respect, she never ceases to call them "savages" or "beasts". She writes, “I was not before so much hemmed in with the merciless and cruel heathen, but now as much with pitiful, tender-heated and compassionate Christians”. Read the last paragraph for more details.


seicheprey profile image

seicheprey 3 years ago

Extremely well summarized and commented upon. Thanks for posting!

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