Rhetorical Analysis Of American Captivity Narrative

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At its most basic level, the American Captivity Narrative is a biographical or autobiographical account of an individual’s captivity at the hands of the Native Americans. Though understood to be an accurate account of the individual’s experience, these narratives contain a number of common rhetorical features that serve to augment the emotional impact of the events described. Frequently, the customs and practices of each individual’s captors are the source of these notable occurrences. Common themes include: torture or suffering, adoption, hunting, and the sharing or discussion of spiritual beliefs. Taken as a whole, these major events weave a narrative of self-transformation. Though these texts do not typically end with the narrator converting…show more content…
Though Isaac Jogues remained a slave of sorts throughout his captivity, both John Smith and Hans Staden were accepted into the tribes that had captured them. One frequent concept described in the narratives speaks to the fact that the Native Americans often adopted the captive into a family to compensate for the recent death of a family member. Jogues claims that it is customary when “they spare a prisoner’s life, to adopt him into some family to supply the place of a deceased, to whose rights he in a manner succeeds” (106). This is a rather intriguing concept as it suggests that the Native Americans were willing to grant a great deal of personal status to the same captives they had tormented. Hans Staden notes a similar trend in his own captivity as he finally approaches his freedom. The king of the Tuppin Imba expresses profound sorrow at his departure and indeed, states that “he looked on [Staden] as a son” (58). In all of these accounts, the narrators assert that they assimilated into their captors’ culture on a level that far exceeded simple camaraderie. Instead, the native people culturally embraced them in a decidedly intimate way. Considering that they were previously seen as outsiders and enemies, the idea of suddenly becoming family speaks powerfully to the different customs of the Native…show more content…
This generally occurs after the narrator has been accepted into the society, with the exchange often composed of the captive attempting to impart Christian understanding to his captors. For Jogues, this involved instructing “the oldest on the articles of our faith…I endeavored to raise their minds from creatures, to a knowledge of the Creator” (116). While Jogues treated this period with a missionary mentality, conversion was not necessarily the purpose of these exchanges. John Smith recalls a conversation with Tecaughretanego in which he was chastised for laughing during a somber smoking ritual. . Apologizing for making “sport of sacred things” (312), Smith acknowledges his error and proceeds to have a conversation regarding the nature of God and reconciliation. In spite of the fact that Protestant readers at the time would hold the Native Americans to be heathens and savages, the conversation makes Tecaughretanego appear to be both wise and spiritually rich. In effect, this aspect of the Captivity Narrative draws parallels between the audience and the Native Americans, even if not explicitly stated. To the contemporary audience, these discussions and expositions of faith would have struck a powerful

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