For God or Merit: An Analysis of Mary Rowlandson’s Intentions Concerning the Narration and Publication of Her Captivity and Restoration

Topics: Captivity narrative, Mary Rowlandson, Native Americans in the United States Pages: 6 (1444 words) Published: April 21, 2015
Arielle Nainstein
Dr. Taylor S. Hagood
Colonial and Early American Lit
26 February 2015
For God or Merit: An Analysis of Mary Rowlandson’s Intentions Concerning the Narration and Publication of Her Captivity and Restoration: Around the time of the late 1600’s, it was extremely uncommon that an individual would encounter a professionally published piece of work written by a woman, let alone one that achieved notable fame. Mary Rowlandson’s Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson was one of the first to break that mold by advertising itself as a religious text. During the time of King Philip’s war, Native American inhabitants were launching attacks on colonists in present-day New England. The settlers viewed the attacks as retribution by an angry God against a rebellious people who had given into corruption and fallen from the Godliness of former generations. Rowlandson’s narrative tension between an understanding of the insufficiencies associated with the Indian lifestyle, combined with her overall encouragement of the Puritan way, reflects the complications associated with multiple publications that emerged during this time period. However, at first glance it is unclear whether or not Rowlandson published her narrative with the intention of releasing it as a religious and beneficial testimony to those who have experienced suffering, or with the purpose of emphasizing her personal achievements and rights as a woman. The instant and extended popularity of the narrative might be explained by the highly publicized Lancaster invasions and by Rowlandson’s well-known position as a minister’s wife. Her writings had to be presented in a manner that would attract people’s attention, regardless of the reader’s gender, race, or socioeconomic background. When examining the original cover of the publication, Rowlandson is portrayed as a woman holding a gun and protecting her town from a group of Native Americans. Oddly enough, Mary Rowlandson never actually picked up a gun, not even once, during her recorded narrative. So the question is, why would her publishing company depict her in this manner? Perhaps they wanted to embody her experiences and difficult encounters, or maybe they thought that a woman holding a weapon would be intriguing to those who identified with the country’s recent movement towards its independence from England. Nevertheless, the audience that identified with Rowlandson’s story the most were Puritan readers, due to the fact that the captives were seen as representatives of their religious community. Throughout the narrative, Rowlandson references an enormous amount of scripture. The purpose of this would be to create a record of her interactions with God, using instances of both positive and negative situations as a source of learning. The entire description of how she progressed through her experiences creates a story that inspires faith. The narrative provides answers, examples, and guidance for future Puritan readers. Rowlandson gains confidence in seeing herself as one with the bible, visualizing herself as part of the story, and ultimately distinguishing herself to be on the same level as the Israelites and God’s other chosen people. She truly believes that she has been chosen, and it could undoubtedly be a testament to her status as one of God’s children. While exploring her account, it can be inferred that Rowlandson views the Native Americans as non-chosen ones. Every time that an Indian helps her, she automatically sees them as just an instrument of God, for he is the one coming to her aid and they are just under his influence. Still, by the end of the narrative the Native Americans ransom her out for her release, overall showing kindness and compassion towards her well-being, which is seemingly ironic because it displays how they are capable of exemplifying Christian views just as well, if not more, than her own people. Rowland’s acknowledgement of this, as well as her...

Cited: Allen, Paula G. “When Women Throw Down Bundles: Strong Women Make Strong Nations.” In The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Tradition. Boston: Beacon Press, 1986. 30-42. Print.
Rowlandson, Mary. A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 8th ed. Vol. A. Norton. 256-288. Print. Beginnings to 1820.
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