The True History of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson
Throughout the history of the planet exploration, the pioneers who dared to set their foot on a new terrain not infrequently faced a multitude of obstacles and barriers ranging from purely practical difficulties of settling in a new environment to spiritual conflicts between the cultural worlds of the aborigines and the newcomers.
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In the early decades of American colonization, the settlers found moral support in their religious background based on Protestant values. Mary Rowlandson in her captivity narrative Captivity and Restoration dwells on a dramatic period in her life when she was taken hostage by the Native Americans and approaches the events from the position of her Protestant beliefs, which not infrequently lead her to misinterpretation of human actions as those purely guided by God’s will.
Mrs Rowlandson’s Protestant outlook reveals itself throughout the whole narrative in her reaction to the current events as those predestined by God and sent to mere mortals as either a challenge or a reward. The wife of a pastor, Mrs Rowlandson constantly quotes the Bible which stands for the symbol of her faith and, when she comes into possession of one, serves as a source of inspiration and moral support both for her and her fellow captives.
Not once in the worst moments of despair did she open the Bible and find quotes that provided consolation for the woman who preferred to perceive the reality through her religious convictions: “God was with me in a wonderful manner, carrying me along, and bearing up my spirit, that it did not quite fail” (Rowlandson 10). The Bible represents Mrs Rowlandson’s guide through the hardships of captivity, and yet leads to a series of delusions that prevent her from seeing things as they are.
According to the Protestant tradition, the Native Americans are viewed by Mrs Rowlandson as the representatives of the evil world totally opposed to the good Christians. The multiple epithets she uses to refer to the Indians are rather revealing: “murderous wretches”, “merciless heathen”, “the infidels”, “hell-hounds”, “barbarous creatures”, “pagans”, “wild beasts of the forests” (Rowlandson 6–9, 12, 18).
Standardly considering the Protestant community to be the concentration of all holy and righteous, Mrs Rowlandson looks down upon her captors as hopelessly cruel and barbarous animals possessing nothing humane.
However, such understanding of the Indians is utterly refuted by their attitude to the captured lady: throughout the whole period of her detention, the Indians take care of her not worse than of themselves, offering her food, shelter and remuneration for the small handwork she does for them.
On one occurrence they even see to it that Mrs Rowlandson’s feet do not get wet while their own are soaking; on another occurrence instead of burning the Bible none of them needs, the Indians choose to offer it to Mrs Rowlandson (Rowlandson 16, 19). But despite all their efforts, Mrs Rowlandson never acknowledges them as humane and considerate creatures, and ascribes all the positive experiences to God’s will.
Mrs Rowlandson’s unshakeable belief in the immutability of God’s power over the Christians leads to her erroneous attitude towards the Indians who actually care about her, and prevents her from understanding and accepting their unique culture. In her fanatic belief, she fails to notice the resemblance between the religious ceremonies of the Indians and the Christians, and to recognize that human values of hospitality and care are common to every culture.
When Mrs Rowlandson is held captive, her gratitude for the good things applies exclusively to God, and not to the people who actually do that good to her. The more hypocritical appears her praise of ‘the good Christians’ who act as benefactors to her after her release, since thus she reveals the attitude of inequality and discrimination characteristic of the sanctimonious moralists of the time.
Rowlandson, Mary. Captivity and Restoration. Fairfield, IA: 1st World Library, 2005. Print.