The narrative of the captivity and restoration argues on captivity during the English-Indian era. It is her vivid description of the eleven weeks she was captivated by Indians which allows the work to be amongst the most beautiful works of all time. She gives a first-hand account of the conditions in captivity, the views she held about Indians, which includes before and after the detention. Either, the Puritan’s view on religion is depicted. She either ends up changing her perception which she held on ‘civilized’ and ‘savage’ without changing her overall world’s view. This work will therefore examine the relevance of the work today, in our situations, problems, its themes and the way that characters, imagery, irony or other devices are developed to depict and imply topics, the social, political and religious aspects which influenced the writer and then the way the figurative meanings are expressed.
In an attempt to think of Mary Rowlandson’s work within our situations and especially when we are undergoing challenges, I kept looking at the theme of faith and religion displayed by Mrs. Rowlandson throughout her work. Her religion has been her source of strength even when the treatment in captivity is so harsh. She explains, in the fourth remove the way the spirit of the Lord helped her restore her spirit, “My head was light and dizzy (either through hunger or hard lodging, or trouble all together), my knees feeble, my body raw by sitting double night and day, that I cannot express to man the affliction that lay upon my spirit, but the Lord helped me at that time to express it to Himself.” (Rowlandson 22). This shows the way the Lord, acted as the only audience which Rowlandson needed to express her grief.
In today’s life, one’s faith is very vital in ordering our steps and ways of livelihood. Mary Rowland’s expresses this in her work, in the fifth remove. She explains to the English army the reason why she and her fellow captives did not cross the river as the act of God. Rowlandson writes, “God did not give them courage or activity to go over after us. We were not ready for so great a mercy as victory and deliverance.” (Rowlandson 25). She excused the lack of courage by English men as the act of God which meant that the captives were not yet ready to be freed. This is still shown in today’s life where people use their religion and beliefs to do or not to do certain things. For example, today, a Christian may fail in their business venture attribute it to God, that He did not want him or her to venture in the particular business, one can argue that they are better in other fields and that God is using the situation to talk to them on the correct way.
Comfort and good life is something which none of us is assured of. Times comes when what you held dear leaves you and you are forced to live another life harder than you could have ever imagined. Today, there are wars, economic crisis, political disabilities and religious conflicts which can take us back to the life Mrs. Rowlandson experienced. She is a house wife, and Indians invade a mother of three and her town in 1676 in the time of King Philip’s war. She lost her youngest child in her arms, and this was the most traumatizing experience for her. She lost friends, and she had to live under very terrible conditions during her captivity (Derounian, Kathryn, 84). In the current era, one can never run away from the different cultures and beliefs held by people. One has to learn on the way to co-exist with people from different cultures. In the book, we find Mrs. Rowlandson having to learn how to live with the Indians who have very different lifestyles and actions from her own. She is at first shocked by their culture and the food they eat. However, since she was depended on them, she had to learn, and by the time she was done with her captivity, she had some admiration for their ability to live in the wilderness even with minimal resources. However, she still maintained the view that Indians are enemies.
The theme of religion is shown throughout the text in which she continually makes references to the Bible in supporting her actions. She even explains the way she tried to acknowledge Sabbath even in her captivity, in the seventh remove she writes’, when the Sabbath came they bade me go to work. I told them it was the Sabbath day, and desired them to let me rest, and told them I would do as much more tomorrow; to which they answered me they would break my face. And here I cannot but take notice of the strange providence of God in preserving the heathen’ (Rowlandson 2009).
The theme of womanhood and the roles played by women are also depicted in Mrs. Rowlandson’s text. The part played by the woman to care and sympathize with her offsprings is displayed in which she always meditates about her kids. She is shown as a caring mother to her youngest daughter Sarah until her death in which she did an unusual thing, ‘when the Sabbath came they bade me go to work. I told them it was the Sabbath day, and desired them to let me rest, and told them I would do as much more tomorrow; to which they answered me they would break my face. And here I cannot but take notice of the strange providence of God in preserving the heathen’ (Logan, Lisa).
An aspect of irony is depicted through the way Mary Rowlandson describes her contacts with the savages. She continually remarks about the savagery of the Native Americans, but then the events she recounts do not show savagery. Savagery refers to a lack of humanity or culture. According to the second removal, “one of the Indians carried my poor babe upon a horse,” as she moaned and “went on foot.” The act of carrying somebody’s baby because they are weak to carry it is a show of humanity. Either, when she got too weak “they set [her] upon the horse.” Savages do not do these actions. These plus providing her with a sewing task so that she can earn a living do not add up to a savage description (Black Hawk)
Imagery is used to bring more emphasis to the theme of suffering and uncertainty of life. Biblical journeys of biblical figures appear in the work of Mary Rowlandson as allegories to show the experiences the Englishmen and she underwent. Just like God afflicts his people for going astray, English and Mrs. Rowlandson endure the suffering for forfeiting His ways in which during the process of infliction they learn on how to be entirely dependent on him.
The symbol of appealing food which she once preferred to starve to death than having to it is used. The days spent in captivity makes her adapt to the situations, and she gives thanks to God for making the food look more delicious than she could have ever imagined. She once stole horse foot from a child who is a show of reduction in the distance between her and the Natives, as well as the high status which she held as an English woman.
The first character used in the development of the theme of captivity is Mary Rowlandson herself, who is the narrator as well as a protagonist. She was a housewife and a mother of three before the Indians disrupted her life. During her stay, she found solace in the Bible. As she stayed with her captivators, she becomes less sure of her moral standards and values and the view of savagery held about the Indians becomes less clear. She realizes that the savage level exists even in the Christians and therefore she could not point figures even after her release (Rowlandson, Mary)
Revered Joseph Rowlandson is displayed as a faithful husband to Mrs. Rowlandson but was away during the time of the attack. He uses his capacity and ties with the church to help free his family from the captivity. Robert Pepper is a captive colonist, and he is helpful to Mrs. Rowlandson in which he teaches her how to use herbs to cure her wounds.
The political influence behind the work of Mrs. Rowlandson makes her writing unethical even though it may cause sympathy on the part of the reader. Also though she suffered the loss of a child in her arms, her friends and all she owned, she should not be part of the history of intolerance to other people. She ended up doing her work to be used as propaganda by millions of puritans/ colonialists to justify the murdering of people who had Indian origin later in history. Even though Mary may not have written her work as a result of political pressure, however, the work was manipulated politically manipulated with the back-up of religious views in which the Native Americans were viewed as nothing short of savages and cruel people.
The social influence of the work is rooted behind the savage acts of the Native Americans who were her captors. Through this work, one can see the way English men portrayed the Natives. Like for example, the Natives are described as savages with the Christian doctrine shown to be one of love and acceptance all through the text. The work also points to the moment when Rowlandson appreciated her captors for their good gesture and being humane even though she had always treated them as savages.
The religious influence in the work of Mary Rowlandson is depicted in the way she depended on the Bible to gain her strength even in the most challenging times. She could talk to God on her sorrows, and in him she found solace. According to her, this was a way of God bringing punishment to them because of deviated from his ways, and the captivity taught them on the way to be depended on God.
Most of the illustrative aspects of the texts are majorly religious. Like for example, she uses the symbol of starvation as a motif for showing one can get strength from the Lord. However, one needs to eat and cannot entirely depend on spiritual food for a full living. It leads her into begging for food from the natives she does not know; either she steals food from a Native child. The symbol of the apron is also used in which she used it for keeping her Bible, sewing tools, food, and other objects. The Bible was the source of her strength while the sewing tools were used in giving her skills for trade which means that the apron was majorly her survival kit (Amara, Fadhila). The imagery of Baquaug River is explained in the fifth remove whereby the Native Americans were able to cross the river successfully before the English came and the river prevented the English from crossing. Here, Mrs. Rowlandson describes this as a strange act of God protecting the heathens. This makes the river to be used as a symbol for depicting the influence which God had on King Philip’s war. It also acts as the symbol for showing Mrs. Rowlandson’s persistence in faith when faced with both good and bad things. Still, Rowlandson gives a lengthy description of pre-war ritual by the Indians in which one can attribute the detailed report to the interest she had in the ritual.
Rowlandson, Mary. “Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson.” Project Gutenberg, 2009.
Black Hawk. “Autobiography of Ma-Ka-Tai-Me-She-Kia-Kiak, or Black Hawk.” Project Gutenberg, 2009.
Rowlandson, Mary. A True History of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson. Alejandro’s Libros, 2013.
Logan, Lisa. “Mary Rowlandson’s captivity and the” place” of the woman subject.” Early American Literature 28.3 (1993): 255-277.
Derounian, Kathryn Zabelle. “Puritan Orthodoxy and the” Survivor Syndrome” in Mary Rowlandson’s Indian Captivity Narrative.” Early American Literature 22.1 (1987): 82.
Amara, Fadhila. Religion in Mary White Rowlandson’s actual history of captivity and restoration of Mrs. Mary White Rowlandson and Harriet Jacobs’s: incidents in the life of a slave girl, written by Herself. Diss. Université de Bejaia, 2018.