|Mary Rowlandson- Background
As late as the 1690s, more than half a century after John Winthrop’s arrival in Massachusetts, the Puritans were still a dominant group in New England. It was they, after all, who were responsible for the Salem witch trials in 1692. Furthermore, many of the major American writers of the time, most notably Cotton Mather, were Puritans. America was already a diverse place, however, in both religion and ethnicity. The colony of Maryland, founded in 1634, was home to many Catholics. In 1681, William Penn founded Pennsylvania, which would become home to numerous members of a religious denomination known as the Society of Friends, also known as the Quakers. The slave trade continued to bring Africans to America, and the many Native American tribes that had occupied the continent long before the Europeans arrived never left. Indeed, the tensions between the Native Americans and the people of European ancestry erupted in 1675, when a Wampanoag named Metacomet launched an attack on the colonists in New England. Named “King Philip’s War” after Metacomet, known to the colonists as King Philip, this conflict lasted until 1676.
Mary Rowlandson, c. 1636-1711
Mary Rowlandson, a Puritan wife and mother, published only one book during her life. That book, however, not only became one of the era's best-sellers, going through four editions in one year, but also earned her an important place in the history of American literature. A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, an account of her captivity among the Narragansett Indians during King Philip'sWar in 1676, is a frequently cited example of a captivity narrative, an important American literary genre used by James Fenimore Cooper, Ann Bleecker, John Williams, and James Seaver. Because of Rowlandson's intimate relationship with her Indian captors, her book also is interesting for its treatment of cultural contact. Finally, in its use of autobiography, typology, and the jeremiad, Rowlandson's book helps us to understand the Puritan mind.
Think Fast: In a paragraph (100 words),analyze the imagery in Mary Rowlandson’s narrative. Try to identify some patterns. What might these patterns suggest about her viewpoint?
Answer the following in well developed paragraphs, forming one analysis essay:
Selection: What incidents and descriptions has Rowlandson decided to include in her narrative? What might she have omitted? How does her selection of material shape our reading of the narrative? In her mind, what is the meaning of her experience?
Genre: Rowlandson’s story is one of the first and most notable examples of a genre called the captivity narrative. Describe the conventions of this genre.
Race: How does Rowlandson depict her captors? What factors might have inspired this depiction? Do you find it convincing? Defend your answer.
Faith: Trace the development of Rowlandson’s faith over the course of her captivity. How and why does her faith change?