Research Devices in Hanging Katherine Garret

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Abigail Davis’ Hanging Katherine Garret provides its readers with perspicacious inquiries into a number of different historical topics. It provides a way of introducing history (such as the Pequot history, the religious history of the Great Awakening, interaction between the natives and the early settlers in the colonies, the Indian removal process) to the masses. As someone who has been largely unfamiliar with early American history I can certainly testify that Davis’ novel does a good job in shedding some light on these significant topics. However, the important question that arises at this conjecture is whether or not this rendition of history by Davis is, in fact, accurate. Yes, her work does shed some light on these important topics. But does it shed the right light? Is it authentic? Is it verifiable? More often than not, Davis presents us with minute details of the hanging of Kate Garret with a profound sense of convenience. The “I have stumbled onto this great mystery” device makes the actual information in the book and the research gone into acquiring that information seems unrealistic at the very least. If we can’t trust the research process, we certainly can’t trust the history. The important thing to consider at this point then becomes the relationship between fact and fiction: is Hanging Katherine Garret – A novel based on the 1737 trial of a Pequot woman actually a work of fiction? While this may not be true, Davis’ use of important information in her book suggests that it is actually so. While Karla (the protagonist) does use a lot of information from research which can be verified, the bulk or majority of her work comes from a ‘hunch’. Time and again, we see Kate’s voice occur telling Karla minute details about Pequot Indian history, the times in which she lived, her relationship with her owners and finally everything that occurred on the night of the infanticide. How can we, the readers, simply trust a dead person’s voice? No, while the...
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