Essay on The Captivity Narrative By John Smith And Mary Rowlandson

Essay on The Captivity Narrative By John Smith And Mary Rowlandson

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The captivity narrative is one of the first styles of literature that was ever birthed from the “new world.” This specific style of literature perfectly catered to what kind of information the folks in England were hungry for. It was real life accounts of an individual’s experience in a mysterious land that England wanted to read about. Scholars have debated whether some captivity narratives have been fabricated to adhere to what the public demanded however the majority of the narratives share the same exact traits as one another whether they are deemed trustworthy or not. The accounts of John Smith and Mary Rowlandson differ in degrees of authenticity, but both hold traits that are parallel with one another.
Common traits that can be traced throughout the majority of captivity narratives are sudden attacks, casualties, and a sale or trade. According to John Smith the two gentlemen that were with him were ambushed then killed by Indians on the banks of the Chickahominy River while he was exploring inland. (62-63) Towards the end of Smith’s narrative he states that he was traded back to the colonists in exchange for goods and food. (68) Rowlandson begins her account with the sudden attack on her village by Indians. She specifies how the Indians were burning and marching into people’s homes. Mary continues to describe the killings of her neighbors and family which affirms the casualties needed to fulfill that trait. (127-128) An interesting note on the account of Rowlandson that separates itself from Smith’s is that the captivity does not start “in medias res.” She starts very early in her writing where as Smith places his captivity right in the middle. Mary Rowlandson finally made it back to her community in Boston, bu...


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...ments while being held prisoner she would quote scripture in order to overcome adversity. The core difference between these two narratives in terms of religious references is the motive behind them. Smith’s motive was to simply do his duty by mentioning God because it was politically correct to say while Rowlandson was writing from a place in her heart. Her motive has no evidence of political ties.
The Smith and Rowlandson captivity narratives serve multiple purposes that are clearly different, but the same universal traits such as a sudden attack, casualties, and a sale or trade make up the DNA of captivity narratives can be found in both accounts. The authenticity of certain aspects with in the narratives are questionable, but ultimately the goal to share a first person experience as a prisoner of the Indians is communicated to people whose ears are wide open.

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