Mary Rowlandson’s The Sovereignty and Goodness of God is a widely known autobiography that gives unique insight into a New England, Puritan, women’s captivity by the native people. This book has been highly regarded and widely read by Americans since its first publishing in the seventeenth century and has now been published in over forty editions. Thankfully we are able to view this great work. Mary Rowlandson was not the conventional, white, male, writer at this time and consistent persuasion by her close family members and friends was the only way to convince her to make her story public. After making her experiences known, the 1682 edition published in Boston, “Sold more than a thousand copies, or roughly one for every hundred people in the New England colonies, where it was both widely read and frequently read aloud.” (192) So what might have made Rowlandson’s story so absorbing to her American readers? Mary Rowlandson produced a structured story that introduced a new type of respected learning for Puritans, told exciting stories of cultural contact and ended with a tale of heroism.
Mary Rowlandson lived in a time where church and state were one and religion was incorporated into everyone’s daily activities. This being said, children and adults commonly read scripture to further their knowledge of the bible and become better Puritans. Any books that were not approved by the minister were not allowed to be published and stories tended to involve some type of religious teachings to be deemed appropriate for reading. Mary Rowlandson’s book does not stray from the inclusion of Puritan thinking in any way but introduces an exciting conveyance of story telling that captures the reader from the very first page. Throughout the text, Rowlandson consistently quotes scripture and parallels her tribulations with those of the Israelites. Commonly comparing herself with Job, Mary first demonstrates this when she describes herself as being the only one to escape the burning house in Lancaster. After detailing the scene she writes, “Job 1. 15 And I am escaped alone to tell the news.” (198) Scripture quoting continues very frequently throughout the entire story as Mary continues her removes.
Continuing with Rowlandson’s inventive use of scripture, the author also pointed to more ideas of morality in her text that would be appropriate for print during this time. First, she mentions her opinion on the use of tobacco three times during her story. She scorns it as being a waste of time and a fruitless hobby. Second, she explains the importance of acknowledging the Sabbath no matter the circumstances. Third, she reiterates how important the bible is during trials stating, “We opened the bible and lighted on Psalms 27 [for strength].” (203) Mary Rowlandson, being the town ministers wife, would be a very prominent figure at this time. By stating her opinions on these few things, Rowlandson is setting up a guide for those who read her book that is bound to be respected. The readers at this time were likely to open her book and read it very thoroughly which allowed them to submerge themselves in the text and surface with an abundance of knowledge on scripture and morality. Mary Rowlandson’s living testimony is so “captivating” that it is effortless to interest yourself and readers at this time were not used to stories such as these. The bundling of scripture and a tale of imprisonment appealed to the adventurous Puritan, which coincidentally made up most of the New England citizens who had risked their lives to travel to America.
However, Mary did not just quote scripture entirely throughout her book, she also gave detailed observations of her Native American kidnappers that would have been fascinating for people in the colonies and abroad at this time. Rowlandson begins her book with the capture of her town of Lancaster and the burning of her home by the native people. The readers at this time would have been compelled by a story...
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