Surviving the New Frontier
Although Mary Rowlandson, in "A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson," appears to be a selfish, holier-than-thou Puritan woman, a close reading of the text indicates that Mary behaves predictably during her captivity with the Indians and suffered from what is currently referred to as Stockholm Syndrome, an unconscious psychological response and defense mechanism exhibited by hostages in their will to survive. Mary exhibits the following characteristics of Stockholm Syndrome: submitting to and bonding with captors; mistaking a lack of abuse by captors for acts of kindness; and gratitude for not being killed. The reader first senses Mary's strong will to survive when she is unable to lay down her life in the beginning as she had always planned in the event of an attack by the Indians. Possibly because of her motherly instinct, knowing her children depend on her, a survivor instinct manifests and she goes along peacefully with the Indians. Wounded, weary, sick, frightened, and emotionally distraught, she perseveres, fighting for her life day after day. Her only source of comfort and strength: her faith in God and a desire to see her family. As Mary becomes more and more isolated from the comfort of home and civilization, becomes separated from her other children, and watches her sick child die, she is forced to adapt to her captivity, adapt to the demands of the journey, and adapt to the culture of the Indians. Only her will to survive prevents her from committing suicide. Mary thanks God for "preserving me in the use of my reason and senses in that distressed time that I did not use wicked and violent means to end my own miserable life" (240). Under such extreme distress, she begins to bond and identify with the Indians and integrate into their culture. Several times, when writing about the removes, she uses "we" instead of "I," suggesting a sense of bonding and identifying herself as...
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