The Impact of New England Puritan Captivity Narratives
"I hope I can say in some measure, As David did, It is good for me that I have been afflicted." -Mary Rowlandson
The mentality that existed amongst Puritans that sought to account for God's reasons for affliction by captivity was that it was His punishment. Thus their subsequent redemption was viewed as His mercy. They saw the many occurrences of captivities as a warning that all of New England must heed the lessons to be learned by captivity or they will continue to be afflicted with suffering. The narratives themselves not only revealed the history of the Indian wars against the people of New England, namely Puritans or settlers of the seventeenth century, but also revealed much about the Puritan way of thought. The Captivity Narrative is one of the oldest literary forms coming from America. The earliest American captives were most certainly not settlers, they were natives held captive by Spaniards who were looking for riches, guides and interpreters. It was not long before the American Indians began to retaliate and take their own captives. However, since Europeans already had an established literary from and publication technique, the first captivity narratives told of the horrors of American Indians as captors. For three hundred years what came to be known as "Captivity Narratives" flourished in the New World and the Old World, which made the new genre exceedingly popular.
The latter part of the seventeenth century began to mark the beginnings of captivity narratives as a separate literary genre. Before then, they existed purely as smaller portions of larger literary endeavors, such as the many explorers' accounts of captivity, i.e. Cabeza de Vaca or John Smith's Voyage
. In the last quarter of the seventeenth century began the marked occurrence of the New England Puritan captivity accounts.
Initially Puritans approached their accounts of...
Cited: Peckham, Howard H. Captured By Indians: True Tales of Pioneer Survivors. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.1954.
Gyles, John. "Memoirs of Odd Adventures, Strange Deliverances, etc., in the Captivity of John Gyles, Esq." Held Captive by Indians: Selected Narratives 1642-1836. VanDerBeets, Richard. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press.1973.
Vaughan, Alden T. and Edward W. Clark. Puritans Among the Indians: Accounts of Captivity and Redemption 1676-1724. Cambridge: The Belknap Press.1981
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