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