Mary Rowlandson, a middle-aged female settler who moved from England to Massachusetts Bay Colony and then to Lancaster, was captured by the Wampanoag Indian tribe during King Phillip’s War. Mary Rowlandson’s experience as a hostage became a foundation for A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson. However, the story provides insights into the conflict between the Native Americans and the colonists, along with observations of the Native Americans’ daily activities. As an example of Puritan literature, Mary Rowlandson’s narrative gives the readers a glimpse of how the perception of reality through belief and Bible stories contributes to the formation of a worldview. For example, the reader can observe how faith and religious texts explain events and bring consolation to the protagonist. Viewing Mary Rowlandson’s story as a faith narrative allows an understanding of the text from the perspective of God’s desire and beneficial outcomes for those who are zealous and firm in their belief.
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The Context of Mary Rowlandson’s Narrative
Mary Rowlandson’s narrative is usually considered a Puritan capture story that emphasizes the difference between the untamed Native Americans and the civilized colonists. The capture is directly linked to salvation, a critical notion for European settlers who came to North America under the pretext of humanization and salvation of the native population. “Rowlandson was struggling for it [salvation], through interaction with Indians in the wilderness where she suffered and survived” (Cao and Cao 298). Thus, the historical context, the story of the conflict, and the colonists’ view of the problem expressed through Rowlandson’s experience and observations contribute to the development of the plot and genre of the story as a capture narrative. At the same time, the protagonist’s allusions to God and the constant comparisons of her hardships with the struggles of biblical characters allow assessing Mary Rowlandson’s text as a faith narrative.
Mary Rowlandson’s Story as a Faith Narrative
Describing the attack on Lancaster Rowlandson allows the reader to view her along with her community’s condition, as well as with the Indian tribe, through the lens of God’s desire. For example, Rowlandson writes the following words: “The Lord hereby would make us the more to acknowledge his hand, and to see that our help is always in him” (Perkins 73) while describing how the dogs, the property of a member of the community, did not rouse at the time of the invasion. In these lines, she expresses hope and confidence simultaneously because God is on the side of believers. This situation is illustrative, considering the protagonist, the development of her ideas, and the structure of the narrative. At the beginning of the story, Rowlandson refers to God’s will to justify the reasons for the capture. During her captivity, everything happening to her is perceived as a test of her belief, which represents “God’s omnipotence, the necessity of faith in affliction and the need for constant penitence” (Cao and Cao 300). The rescue manifests “God’s glory to her survival and returns to the community” (301). Even though Rowlandson compares the wild Indians with the civilized colonists, it is possible to assume that her focus is shifted from the conflict between two social groups with the commemoration of power and justice represented in the final salvation of the protagonist to the religious explanation of the captivity and restoration.
The Change of the Perspective and the Meaning
The change of the perspective of Rowlandson’s narrative facilitates the settlers’ point of view with a theological justification of colonization. Consider her words about God and his intention to teach the colonists a lesson: “But the Lord renewed my strength still, and carried me along, that I might see more of his Power; yea, so much that I could never have thought of, had I not experienced it” (Perkins 75), demonstrating who God’s chosen people are. He brings hardships to challenge faith and teach lessons, and then he gives mercy.
The gradual development of the plot and the main character, assisted with references to God and biblical characters, highlights Mary Rowlandson’s story as a faith narrative that celebrates God’s will and desire for everything and emphasizes the importance of belief and purity, which is rewarded by God’s favor.
Cao, Shuo, and Xu Cao. “Conflict between Self-discovery and Salvation in Mary Rowlandson’s The Sovereignty and Goodness of God.” Theory and Practice in Language Studies 2.2 (2012): 298-303. Print.
Perkins, George. American Lit before the Civil War. NY: McGraw-Hill Learning Solutions, 2014. VitalBook file.
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