“The Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson”, arguably the most famous captivity tale of the American Indian-English genre, is considered a common illustration of the thematic style and purpose of the English captivity narrative. As “the captivity genre leant itself to nationalist agendas” (Snader 66), Rowlandson’s narrative seems to echo other captivity narratives in its bias in favor of English colonial power. Rowlandson’s tale is easy propaganda; her depiction of Native American brutality and violence in the mid-1600s is eloquent and moving, and her writing is infused with rich imagery and apt testimony that defines her religious interpretation of the thirteen-week captivity. Yet can a more comprehensive understanding of Rowlandson’s relationship to Indians exist in a closer reading of her narrative? As “captivity materials . . . are notorious for blending the real and the highly fictive” (Namias 23), can we infer the real colonial relationships of this captivity in applying a modern understanding of economic, political and cultural transformations of American Indians?
Mary Rowlandson was captive under King Phillips’s wife’s sister, and varying other Algonquian masters from February 20, 1676 through May 2, 1676. She recorded her narrative “as the war was slipping away from the Indians” (Calloway 93) and published it with popular acclaim. In the context of this tumultuous time, “it would be a grave mistake to ignore the clear indications that this narrative was intended primarily as a record of the author’s spiritual practices and to assume a specific existential and moral stance in the world” (Ebersole 20). Rowlandson’s intentions for the narrative no doubt “served religious and political aim...
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...ivity. Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia, 1995.
Richter, Daniel K. Facing East from Indian Country: A Naïve History of Early America. Cambridge Massachusetts and London, England: Harvard, 2001.
Namias, June. White Captives: Gender and Ethnicity on the American Frontier. Chapel Hill & London: University of North Carolina, 1993.
Rowlandson, Mary. “The Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 6 th ed., Nine Baym, General Editor. New York, New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2003.
Snader, Joe. Caught Between Worlds: British Captivity Narratives in Fact and Fiction. Lexington , KY: University of Kentucky, 2000.
Vaughan, Alden T., Clark, Edward W. Puritans Among the Indians: Accounts of Captivity and Redemption. Cambridge, Massachusetts, London England: Belknap, Harvard, 1981.
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