Analysis of a Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary

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Mary White Rowlandson's account of her experience as a prisoner of the Algonkian Indians is one of the earliest and well known "captivity narratives," with over thirty editions published to date; yet, the depth of Rowlandson's narrative reaches far beyond the narrow definitions of that genre. It is impossible to overlook the staggering number of biblical metaphors, scriptural quotations, and obvious Puritanical paradigm. Indeed, at times it appears as though Mrs. Rowlandson is going to great lengths to demonstrate her faith and piety—often to the point where the line between "narrative" and "sermon" is somewhat obscured. The central theme of this narrative is not limited to merely being held prisoner by the Algonkian tribe; rather, Rowlandson contemplates her situation on a much larger scale, and always in relation to Divine Providence. The mood and direction is evident from the beginning of the Preface (most likely composed by Congregationalist Increase Mather), referring to Native Americans as "barbarous Salvages," while comparing the Puritans to "God's precious ones." Furthermore, the Preface attempts to presuppose a connection between Rowlandson's ordeal and the trials of Job in the Old Testament, which becomes a recurring theme throughout the narrative, as the Book of Job is quoted numerous times. The manner in which the Preface sets the foundation for the narrative is relevant not only from a religious perspective, but sociologically and politically as well, for no time is wasted defining the "good guys" and the "bad guys." Without a doubt, painting the Algonkains as "animals" and "savages" would certainly have made the average Puritan feel somewhat better regarding their political and moral dealings with the Native Americans. It is also interesting that Mather makes a point of stating that none should suspect ulterior motives for Rowlandson publishing her account, as "No serious spirit then (especially knowing any thing of this gentlewoman's piety) can...
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