In “A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson,” Mary Rowlandson, a Puritan mother from Lancaster, Massachusetts, recounts the invasion of her town by Indians in 1676 during “King Philip’s War,” when the Indians attempted to regain their tribal lands. She describes the period of time where she is held under captivity by the Indians, and the dire circumstances under which she lives. During these terrible weeks, Mary Rowlandson deals with the death of her youngest child, the absence of her Christian family and friends, the terrible conditions that she must survive, and her struggle to maintain her faith in God. She also learns how to cope with the Indians amongst whom she lives, which causes her attitude towards them to undergo several changes. At first, she is utterly appalled by their lifestyle and actions, but as time passes she grows dependent upon them, and by the end of her captivity, she almost admires their ability to survive the harshest times with a very minimal amount of possessions and resources. Despite her growing awe of the Indian lifestyle, her attitude towards them always maintains a view that they are the “enemy.”
In the beginning of the narrative, Mary Rowlandson describes the manner in which the Indians invade her home, kill many of her friends, and drag her away from her husband and two children. She watches as the “murderous Wretches [burn] and [destroy]” her home before her eyes. It is the “dolefullest day that [her] eyes have ever [seen].” At this point in time, Mary has no knowledge of the Indian lifestyle, or even of their motive for ravaging the land of the colonists. She sees them merely as merciless heathens who come from Satan. Mary writes that before the incident, she said that if “the Indians should come, [she] should choose rather to be killed by them then [be] taken alive,”(124) but when that choice actually comes to her, she chooses to go with them, despite her unwillingness. At this point, she puts her life into the Indians’ hands. Once they leave the town, Mary and the Indians begin a series of “removes,” or moves to different areas of the New England wilderness. Mary describes the celebration rituals of the Indians, where they dance and chant, and “[make] the place a lively resemblance of hell!” Their unchristian lifestyle...
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...en she goes home to her family and friends, her attitude toward Indians in general changes greatly. At first, living with Indians is the most appalling thought that she could ever have. Over time, she realizes that she must somewhat befriend them in order to survive adequately. In the end, she even appreciates the Indians, and the experiences she has had with them. Her captivity also brings her closer to God, because during every hardship, she turns to her faith to help her through it. Her time with the Indians also gave her the affliction that she had always hoped for. Mary lived in prosperity before, and had too many comforts of the world around her. The journeys with the Indians give her a kind of reality check, because she sees that not everyone lives in prosperity as she did. The biggest lesson that she learns is to “look beyond present and smaller troubles, and be quieted under them, as Moses said, Exodus.xiv.13, Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.”
Rowlandson, Mary. A True History of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson.In Women’s Indian Captivity Narratives. Ed. Kathryn Zabelle Derounian-Stodola. New York: Penguin Books, 1998.
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